Common Neck Injuries

By: Debbie Rocket PT, OCS

Common Neck Injuries

Neck injuries or pain are very common.  Have you ever woke up with a stiff neck and wonder how it happened? Plus, what should you do when you have neck pain or stiffness?  Let's first look at a few common neck injuries are:

Common neck injuries include Neck strain, stinger and whiplash.Common Neck Injuries

Do you want to learn more about these injuries listed above? Click HERE for more information!

Why Do I Have Pain in my Neck?

It is suggested that 70% of people have neck pain during their lifespan. It is also estimated that 50-85% of people have repetitive episodes.

There are several reasons for neck pain, sometimes it is direct trauma, less often a sign of something more serious and commonly, stresses to the different structures of the neck from repetitive movements, positions and poor postures.

What are the Symptoms for Common Neck Injuries?

The quick answer is below:

  • Muscle pain – Soreness from prolonged physical and emotional stresses. People complain of “hard knots” in the muscle, also called “trigger points”.
  • Muscle spasm – Sudden tightness of the neck muscles. People note that they wake up with pain and stiffness and difficulty turning the head. This can occur for several reasons including muscle injuries, response to a disc or nerve issue and even emotional stress.
  • Headaches – The ones that start at the back of the head and upper neck are usually a result of muscle tightness and spasm. Often described as “dull and achy”. Moving the neck specifically aggravates these headaches and the neck will feel stiff.
  • Facet/joint pain – Neck pain often described as sharp. Turning the head to the same side can aggravate this pain. It can radiate into the shoulder or upper back. It is often worse in the morning and after activity.
  • Nerve pain – Can be severe, fleeting and sharp. Pins and needles and numbness can occur. Depending on the level of the nerve involved, it may go down the arm.

Want to learn more about the bones in neck? Read this ARTICLE.

When Should I Worry About a Neck Injury? How Do I Know If My Neck Injury Is Serious?

The following are concerns that you should seek further medical attention:

  1. Neck pain associated with a fever, headache and stiffness could indicate meningitis or infection of the spinal cord.
  2. Loss of bladder and bowel control. This can possibly indicate spinal cord compression and needs immediate medical evaluation.
  3. Significant impact to the head/neck. Needs MD evaluation with x-rays and/or other testing.
  4. Persistent swollen glands in the neck. This can be due to infection or rarely a tumor.
  5. Chest pain along with neck and left arm pain could be indicative of heart symptoms that warrants medical assessment.
  6. Pain down the arm associated with numbness and tingling may indicate pressure on a nerve. This needs to be assessed by the MD.

How Do You Know If You Tore Something In Your Neck?

Pec Stretch from JOI RehabPec Stretch for better posture

This is more likely to occur with a direct injury including whiplash, playing sports or even a fall.  Symptoms can include pain and even visible bruising and swelling, especially if a muscle is involved. There may be tightness in the neck and hardness of the muscles and issues moving the neck.

Need to know the difference between sprains vs strains? Read this ARTICLE to learn!

Can a Neck Injury Heal on Its Own?

The quick answer is yes, most of the time. There are things that can be done to treat the neck injury and relieve the pain. Treatment can include a combination of therapies including medications, physical therapy, self help guide and much less often, neck surgery.

Patients themselves play in increasingly important role in their own recovery including stretches, strengthening and good ergonomics. Mind and body therapies are also important including good sleep.

“One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Poor posture can lead to stress on the structures of the neck and lead to pain. To help this situation, good sitting posture at a desk or computer will go a long way to prevent pain.

Neck pain can be relieved with OTC medications including Tylenol and Advil. Heat and ice are useful. Heat is helpful to relax muscles and ice helps to decrease muscle guarding and inflammation.

Other common self-help techniques include:

  • Avoid sitting in one position too long and sit with good posture (check out good ergonomic postures for sitting and on the computer)
  • Make sure your eye glass prescription is up to date
  • Don’t sleep with too many pillows.  The best sleeping position can be found in this article. 
  • Get good sleep. Lack of sleep can contribute to musculoskeletal pain.

To read more about the neck, please read this article on a crick in your neck.

Here are some good stretches if you wake up with a stiff neck without an injury.

Head Retraction Head Retraction

Neck Flexion StretchNeck Flexion

Neck Stretch Side BendingSide Bending

Back & Neck Specialists in Jacksonville

JOI is here to help you! For physical therapy, please call JOI Rehab at 904-858-7045.  We have doctors that can further discuss, "what are the most common neck injuries?" To make an appointment with an Orthopedic Neck Specialist, please call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the image down below!

Related Articles: Posture Awarenessand Best Sleep Positions

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