BPS 29: What are the Causes and Treatment of a Neck Strain?

A neck strain happens when fibers in a neck muscle stretches and tears. The injury is also known as pulled muscle. The pain in case of a neck strain vary in intensity. A neck strain generally heals on its own. However, in some cases surgical treatment is required.

Causes of Neck Strain

A neck sprain normally occurs due to an injury of the neck’s soft tissues. The neck contains more than twenty muscles. These muscles support the upright position of the head. They also help facilitate the movements of the neck, head, jaw, shoulders, and upper back.

The muscles consist of muscles fibers. Within each fiber are myofibrils that perform muscle contractions. When the muscle stretches or overexerts, small tears can develop in the tendon, muscle, or the connective tissue between the tendon and muscle.

Extensive neck strains result in inflammation that result in additional pain and swelling. It also requires a longer recovery period. The healing period depends on the muscle fibers that have been torn due to the injury.

While there are many types of neck muscles, the following two muscles are at increased risk of strain.


The kite sized muscles run from the base of the skull and runs down the back. The muscle is responsible for movements including neck extension and head tilts.

Levator Scapulae

The muscle is located at the side of the neck. It runs from the cervical spine to the shoulder blade. This muscle helps in rotation and bending of the neck to the side.

Strain in the above two neck muscles results in a difficulty in movement of the neck. The strain in the muscles can be caused due to many reasons.

-Poor Posture — The most common reasons for neck pain is a poor posture. The muscles and tendons of the neck can become overstretched due to improper posture. This happens in case the head is tilted or held too far forward for a long time. For instance, holding the phone between the shoulder and hear for a long time, hunched over a computer screen, and sleeping in a position without support to the cervical spine can all result in neck strain. Looking down at the smartphone screen for a long time can also result in neck strain, which is known as neck strain.

-Injury — An accident that result in a sudden impact can jar the cervical spine and the head. This can result in neck strain injuries. Examples include whiplash injuries in a car accident and sports injuries.

-Lifting Heavy Objects — Lifting of heavy objects can also lead to neck strain. The neck can become strained and overexerted due to improper posture when lifting heavy objects.

-Repetitive Motions — Even when lifting light objects, to many repetitive motions can result in stress to the neck muscles. This can result in neck pain.

Any type of activity that puts a strain to the neck muscles including the trapezius and levator scapulae can result in neck strain. In case of a neck strain, it’s recommended to contact an experienced spine specialist. A medical professional will make recommendations after a thorough physical examination and diagnostic tests.

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Robin BackPainExpert

Physiotherapists & Back Pain Expert

Twenty years ago I was lucky to survive a serious hockey injury. In a sport where big men zoomaround on hard ice and solid wood sticks are slung furiously, a difficult back injury is what every player fears.
It took a long time for me to climb back to a normal life. But when I did, I was determined to spend the rest of his life helping back pain victims everywhere.
As a physiotherapist and back pain expert I have treated thousands of patients over 20 years, built a respected back pain clinic, created the site BackPainSecrets.Com and authored the book “Back Pain Secrets.”
Learn more about me here.