Skip to Content

Cervical Sprain, Ambulatory Care

A cervical sprain

is a stretched or torn muscle or ligament in your neck. Ligaments are strong tissues that connect bones. Cervical sprains are usually caused by trauma to your neck, such as a sports injury.

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Increased swelling or pain in your neck
  • A headache or not able to move your neck normally
  • Pain between your collarbone and your shoulder
  • Pain or numbness from your shoulder down to your hand
  • Problems with your vision, hearing, or balance
  • Confusion or lack of concentration
  • No control over when you urinate or have a bowel movement

Treatment for a cervical sprain

may include any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Muscle relaxers help decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Wear a cervical collar as directed. A soft collar supports your neck and holds it still. You may need to wear this collar for 7 to 10 days. By day 3, your healthcare provider may tell you to take the collar off for short periods of time. He may tell you to wear the collar less each day until you no longer need it.
    Cervical Collars
  • Apply ice on your neck for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Begin gentle neck exercises as soon as you can move your neck without pain. Exercises will help decrease stiffness and improve the strength and movement of your neck. Ask your healthcare provider what kind of exercises you should do.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.