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"How does one treat a pulled neck muscle?"

ZocdocAnswersHow does one treat a pulled neck muscle?


My husband and I were rear-ended by another car a few days ago, and now my neck won't stop hurting. I'm 51 years old with no history of back problems. If I just pulled a muscle in my neck, how should I treat it?


"Pulling a muscle" is a very common condition, something which we all have experienced. If symptoms persist after a normal recovery period (approximately 2 weeks or so) or if other worrying symptoms develop (such as weakness, numbness or tingling) you should see your primary care doctor to have it further evaluated. Muscles around the neck are of even more concern, as they support the spine. "Pulling a muscle" often falls onto the spectrum of muscle sprain or strain. A sprain is a stretch or tear of the ligament that connects muscle to the bones. A strain is a stretch or tear of the muscle itself. It is often hard to distinguish the two. The major problem that occurs with a sprain or strain is inflammation in the area which causes pain while the muscle/ligament heals. Therefore treatments to alleviate the pain often involved reducing inflammation. The most common recommendation for any sprain/strain is to follow the RICE protocol, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. For the neck, elevation and compression are often difficult, but rest and ice can be important (especially in the first 48 hrs). If symptoms persist, you can talk to your doctor about getting a soft neck brace to further help rest the neck muscles. The other major component is the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. Talk to your doctor if your stomach and kidneys are healthy enough for these medicines. He or she may also prescribe physical therapy in order to help strengthen those muscles. While this problem should resolve if it is a sprain/strain, it is important to talk to your doctor if you are worried. Bone injuries or nerve injuries can also occur after neck trauma and may not heal up without other intervention.

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