Woman stretching her neck

Neck strain: how to treat a pulled neck muscle

Posted by for Strength

Neck pain can get in the way of enjoying daily life. We asked a fitness trainer for her advice on how to treat a pulled neck muscle. 

Neck pain can be an uncomfortable and downright debilitating thing. Not only that, but it can also really get in the way of your day-to-day life. Particularly if you have a desk job – which are known for putting strain on your neck anyway – or if you like to keep yourself fit and active at the gym, then neck pain is the last thing you need.

A pulled neck muscle (also called neck strain) can come about for a variety of reasons. These range from poor posture to heavy lifting to whiplash-type injuries, which tend to result from a fall or accident. According to SportsMD, it can also occur to one of the several “deep or superficial” muscles in your neck. Strain caused to any of these muscles has the capacity to cause significant pain and discomfort, and to limit your mobility. 

We asked fitness trainer Folusha Oluwajana for her insights into this injury, to help you identify when you’ve pulled a neck muscle, treat it, and prevent it from happening again in the future.  

How do you know when you’ve pulled a neck muscle?

The most obvious signs that you have pulled a muscle in your neck are pain and stiffness. As Folusha explains, the pain this causes tends to be “dull and throbbing or sharp in nature, and tends to be worse during movement or activity”.

A less common symptom of neck strain is headaches, caused by excess tension in your muscles.  

Neck strain:

How should you treat a pulled neck muscle?

Thankfully, most neck strains don’t take too long to heal, as long as you look after yourself. So it’s important to avoid exercise and any movement that may jar your neck and aggravate the injury. However, gentle neck exercises are recommended

Folusha recommends using an ice pack wrapped in a cloth and “applying it to the area for up to 20 minutes, several times a day”. She also says that “icing can be alternated with heat”, so try taking warm showers and using heat pads. And, if the pain is ever particularly bad, painkillers like ibuprofen, paracetamol and gels that are specifically designed for muscular pain can be very effective. 

How can you prevent neck strain?

If you’ve strained your neck even once, you will definitely want to avoid it happening again in the future. Thankfully, there are several ways you can do just that. According to Folusha, the number one way you can avoid a pulled neck muscle is by maintaining good posture. This can be difficult if your work involves sitting at a desk all day. So take breaks to stretch, and “ensure your work station is set up appropriately”.

If you’re the active sort, then it’s important that you warm up properly before doing anything particularly strenuous. 

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Images: Getty, Unsplash

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