Pulled Muscle in Neck: When to See a Doctor

pulled muscle in neck

Many of us are familiar with the pain of a pulled muscle. Also known as a neck strain or muscle strain, a pulled muscle in the neck is a common source of discomfort. Recognizing when to seek medical care is essential to give you the best chances of an uneventful recovery.

What is a Pulled Muscle?

Various muscles support the neck, including the sternocleidomastoid, trapezius, and scalene muscles. These muscles help control neck movement and stability.

A pulled neck muscle happens when these muscles or tendons are stretched too far due to a sudden, forceful movement or overexertion. A pulled muscle is characterized by pain and stiffness in the neck area.

Pulled muscles are medically referred to as muscle strains or tears. Strains are graded based on severity, with grade I being a mild stretch with no tissue tearing and grade III being a complete tear or rupture.

Symptoms of a Pulled Muscle in Neck

Common symptoms of a pulled neck muscle include:

  • Pain in the neck that ranges from mild to severe.
  • Neck stiffness.
  • Limited range of motion in the neck.
  • Tenderness or swelling in the affected area.
  • Muscle spasms or cramping in the neck.

When To Seek Medical Attention

While many cases of pulled neck muscles can be managed at home, seeking medical attention in some situations is necessary. Certain symptoms should not be ignored, such as:

  • Numbness or tingling radiating down the arm.
  • Weakness in the arms or hands.
  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking.
  • Severe headache or dizziness.
  • Loss of consciousness or confusion.

If the pain from a pulled muscle in the neck is severe, persistent, or worsening, it may indicate a more significant injury that requires prompt medical evaluation.

If your symptoms haven’t improved within a few days of home management, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor for further assessment. They might recommend physical therapy, imaging tests, or other treatments based on the severity of your strain.

Finally, if you experience frequent or recurrent neck muscle strains, it may be necessary to investigate possible underlying issues.

What Can I Do For a Minor Pulled Muscle in Neck?

For mild neck muscle strains, the following steps can be taken:

  • Rest: Allow the injured muscle to rest and avoid activities that worsen the pain.
  • Ice and Heat: Apply ice to the affected area for the first 48 hours to reduce inflammation, followed by warm compresses or heat to relax the muscles.
  • Over-the-Counter Pain Medications: Non-prescription anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen, can help manage pain.
  • Gentle Stretching: After the initial acute phase, gentle neck stretches and exercises may help to prevent stiffness and restore range of motion.
  • Massage: Gently massaging the affected area can provide relief. Professional massage therapy can also be beneficial.
  • Physical Therapy: In some cases, a physical therapist can develop a personalized exercise plan and provide techniques to aid recovery.

Taking Care of a Pulled Muscle in Neck

A pulled muscle in the neck can be a painful and limiting condition, but most cases can be managed effectively with rest and self-care. However, it’s crucial to be aware of red-flag symptoms and seek immediate medical attention if they occur.
Don’t live with chronic neck pain or pulled muscles – schedule an appointment with a neurosurgeon or physiatrist today!


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