Neck Strain: 5 Causes And Treatment Options

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Neck strain is a prevalent problem, with millions of people experiencing it daily. It’s a condition that affects your neck and upper back muscles, causing pain and discomfort. But what causes this strain? And how can it be treated?   

No matter what type of neck strain you’re dealing with, understanding the root cause is vital to finding relief. For one, it can help to look at how your posture, sleeping positions, stress levels, overuse injuries, and other environmental factors can contribute to neck strains so that you can identify any potential triggers for yourself. 

That said, this article will explore the various causes of neck strain and discuss some treatment options.

Common Causes Of Neck Strain

Several factors can play a role in causing neck strains, and these include:

1. Injury

Injury is a common cause of neck strain. It can occur due to an auto accident, sports-related incident, or even just sleeping in an awkward position. Neck injuries usually involve damage to the cervical spine’s muscles, tendons, and neck ligaments. In some cases, nerve damage may also be present. This type of injury often causes pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion in the affected area. 

If your neck strain is due to an injury, it would be best to have yourself checked by reliable medical professionals in your location, such as Atlas Spine & Rehab, to ensure that any potential underlying issues are caught early on so that appropriate interventions can be taken immediately.

2. Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Viruses, bacteria, other microorganisms, allergic reactions to certain medications, and medical conditions can cause it. Symptoms of meningitis include a severe headache, fever, stiff neck, confusion, nausea, and vomiting. Sometimes, it can lead to seizures or coma if left untreated.

3. Muscle Tension

Muscle tension is one of the most common causes of neck strain. This condition occurs when muscles become overly tight, leading to stiffness and soreness in the neck region. Factors such as poor posture, stress, overexertion, or an underlying medical condition can cause it.  

Prevent neck strain related to muscle tension from occurring again by practicing good posture habits at home and work and using proper ergonomic techniques while engaging in physical activities like exercise or sports.

4. Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is another issue related to neck strain. This condition occurs when the space within the spine narrows and compresses nerves, leading to pain and numbness in other parts of the body. Symptoms may be exacerbated with activities such as walking or standing for long periods.

5. Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that causes widespread pain and fatigue. It often affects the neck, shoulders, back, and hips. Symptoms may include headaches, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems. Additionally, people with Fibromyalgia are also more likely to experience depression or anxiety.

Effective Treatments For Neck Strain

With proper care and attention, neck strain can usually be managed effectively through the following treatments and medications:

1. Pain Medication

Pain medication is often prescribed to help relieve the pain associated with a neck strain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen are commonly used. These medications work by reducing inflammation, which can cause muscle spasms and lead to further pain in the neck area. 

Moreover, you can use over-the-counter topical creams containing menthol or capsaicin to temporarily relieve neck pain when applied directly to the affected area.

2. Ice And Heat Therapy

Ice and heat therapy are two of the most common treatment options for neck strain. Applying ice to the affected area helps reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain. Typically, it should be applied in 20-minute intervals with a thin cloth or towel between it and your skin. It’s important not to put too much pressure on the area as this can aggravate it further. 

You may transition from using ice to applying heat. Heating pads, hot water bottles, heated wipes, or electric blankets can help loosen tight muscles and improve blood circulation. Heat should also be used for no more than 20 minutes at a time but with slightly less intensity than when using ice. Both treatments should only be done after consulting your doctor or physical therapist first, as they will know what’s best based on your case.

3. Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is an effective treatment option for your neck strain. It focuses on strengthening the muscles that support the cervical spine and mobilizing joints to reduce pain. Physical therapists can teach you exercises and stretches tailored to your specific needs, thus helping you become more flexible and able to move more easily without discomfort. 

In addition, physical therapists may use manual therapies such as massage or manipulation of affected areas, which can help relieve muscle tension and improve the range of motion. With consistent practice and guidance from a professional physical therapist, individuals suffering from neck strain can experience improved mobility and decreased pain levels over time.

4. Corticosteroid Injections

Corticosteroid injections are a standard treatment for neck strain. Injections involve the introduction of corticosteroids directly into affected areas to reduce inflammation and pain. These injections can provide fast-acting, long-term relief from neck strain symptoms.

Here are five reasons why people consider corticosteroid injections:

  • They offer quick relief that lasts longer than other treatments
  • They target specific problem areas with precision
  • There is no need to take medications orally or topically
  • The side effects associated with these injections tend to be minor
  • Compared to surgery, they are less invasive and cost-effective

Overall, corticosteroid injections as a form of treatment for neck strain can provide significant benefits without extensive risks or costs. However, it’s best to consult your doctor first since this approach is not for everyone, especially those with medical conditions like steroid allergy, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

5. Traction

Traction involves stretching out the muscles and ligaments in the spine to reduce pain and restore range of motion. Traction can also prevent further injury by improving posture, stabilizing weakened joints, and increasing blood flow to affected areas. It can be used with cervical pillows or traction chairs, but the type and amount of tension applied should depend on the condition’s severity.

Notably, traction should always be performed cautiously; if it causes increased discomfort, stop immediately and consult your doctor before continuing. Lastly, traction can provide much-needed relief when combined with other treatments like physical therapy or chiropractic care for those seeking relief from chronic neck strain.


Neck strain is a painful condition caused by injury, muscle tension, or medical conditions like meningitis. Fortunately, several treatment options are available to help alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with this condition. Physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, traction, and ice and heat therapy may all relieve neck strain symptoms. 

Remember that no matter what causes your neck strain or how severe it is, don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you’re having trouble managing it independently. While some people find success treating their neck strain at home with over-the-counter medications and lifestyle changes, such as improving posture and exercise habits, seeking medical advice is always recommended for optimal results.




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