Considering the fact that neck is the most flexible part of your body, it is incredibly susceptible to injury. Hence, it is quite common to have a pulled neck muscle at some point of your life. Neck is one of the most frequently used muscles in the body since it plays an important role in supporting and facilitating the movement of the head.Besides connecting the neck with the head, these muscles also extend into the shoulders and the back. Hence, an agonizing pain in the neck not only hinders your neck movement, but also interferes to a great extent with your day-to-day activities.
Neck pain due to a pulled muscle can occur due to minor injuries like sleeping in an awkward position, hunching forward to view the computer screen or while driving, sudden jerks while playing sports like football and basketball, over exertion during exercise or due to severe injuries like muscle trauma that occurs during road accidents or major falls that end up placing too much of weight on one side of your body.These injuries lead to the separation of muscle fibers and partial or complete tearing of the muscles.
Bleeding, inflammation and swelling in the affected neck area causes an excruciating neck pain, thus limiting the flexibility of the neck. While neck pain due to minor injuries can be best managed by self-care, as per the researchers of University of Maryland Medical Center, severe traumatic neck injuries certainly need medical attention. Read on to find out the different treatments that can be adapted to alleviate the symptoms of a pulled neck muscle.
Treatments for a Pulled Neck Muscle
The main objective of any treatment for pulled neck muscles is to strengthen the neck muscles, block the pain signals and most importantly reduce inflammation in and around the neck muscles.
Exercising the Neck
Physical therapy can serve as the best way for increasing the strength of neck muscles and improving blood circulation in the body. it allows oxygen and nutrient rich blood to reach the affected area and speed up the process of recovery. Since, neck injuries are very delicate, it is important to begin with simple neck exercises that involve titling your head alternatively, in slow motions to help you increase the range of motion of your neck. Once the pain subsides, you can gradually increase the intensity of your exercises and include strength training exercises to promote healing.
However, you should ensure that you do not place additional strain on the muscles, while exercising and move the neck only to the extent that you can. You can also seek advice from a medical practitioner to know what neck exercises can benefit you the most. Also, remember to drink plenty of water before, in between and after the exercises to help your body eliminate toxins that build up in the neck tissue and elicit inflammation and pain.
A soft cervical collar worn around the neck can help you apply least amount of weight on the neck, while moving your head. This enables all the energy to be directed towards the injured neck muscle, thus allowing them to recuperate soon.Hence, wearing a cervical collar, while carrying out your day-to-day activities has additional benefits of letting your neck muscles recover faster.
Alternate Heat and Cold Application
Local application of heat or ice is one of the most convenient and effective home treatments that can be used to relieve neck pain due to a pulled muscle. Heat can be applied as dry heat in the form of heat wraps, hot water bags and warm towel or as moist heat in the form of a hot bath or shower. High temperature dilates blood vessels and promotes blood flow in the body, thus aiding in accelerating the mechanism of cell repair and rehabilitation.
It also relaxes stiff muscles in the neck and releases the tension trapped in torn muscles. On the other hand, cold or ice packs constricts blood vessels and numbs the affected area, thus blocking pain signals from reaching the brain. This property of ice packs helps in dealing with sudden flare ups or the periods of intense neck pain.
Hence, an alternate application of heat and cold for a period of 15-20 minutes each, slows down the inflammatory response by the body, thus reducing the discomfort and pain associated with a pulled neck muscle. It also helps to increase the rate of breakdown of lactic acid in the muscles, which otherwise accumulates in the neck causing muscle soreness.
Getting adequate amount of rest gives enough time to your body to tap into its natural healing abilities and promote renewal of torn neck muscles at a faster rate. Lying down on your back several times during the day can help you reduce the stress placed on the neck.
In addition, the placing a small, cervical pillow under the nape of your neck, while resting can help you maintain the correct neck posture. Most importantly, you should stay away from tasks that involve heavy physical labor and resume to your physical activity and work gradually to avoid increasing the severity of the damage done to your neck muscles.
Over-the-counter medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can block the production of cyclooxygenase enzymes that are primarily responsible for the synthesis of inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins in the body. Hence, NSAIDs like aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, naproxen, etc., can help you obtain relief from inflammation and neck pain due to a pulled muscle.
However, NSAIDs have been associated with a number of unwanted side effects like gastrointestinal bleeding, kidney failure and cardiovascular diseases and hence it is best to minimize the usage of these drugs. One can use them in combination with other physical therapies like exercises, gentle massaging and application of hot compress and ice packs.
Before indulging in any of the aforementioned treatments, one should thoroughly get the severity of a pulled neck muscle examined by a professional health care practitioner to avoid further complications. A consistent neck pain, without any movement can be an indicator of a nerve injury, bone fracture, damage to the vertebral column or a severe spinal injury. Hence, it is crucially important to get the cause of your neck pain diagnosed by a doctor, before you start any treatments at home. Also, you should consider consulting a chiropractor, if the neck pain and stiffness lasts for more than 2-3 days.