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Cervical Strains & Sprains [Neck Pain] - Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

This page has been medically reviewed by David Gershkovich PT, DPT, Founder & Clinical Director at Riser Physical Medicine in New York City.

Cervical Spine

The cervical spine, or C-Spine, is the portion of the spine located in the neck.

The cervical spine has 7 vertebrae, or bones, known as C1 through C7.

The top of the cervical spine is connected to the skull, and the bottom of the C-spine is connected to the upper back.

The cervical spine protects the nerves of the spinal cord while also supporting the head and movement.

cervical spine diagram
C-Spine (©BodyParts3D)

What is a Cervical Strain or Sprain?

A cervical strain or sprain is a soft tissue injury of the cervical spine.

The neck contains muscles, ligaments, and tendons that can be damaged or stretched, causing pain.

The difference between a strain and a sprain is determined by the soft connective tissues that are affected.

A cervical strain occurs when the muscles, or tendons, in the neck become overstretched.

A cervical sprain, on the other hand, happens when the ligaments in the neck are overstretched.


The seven cervical vertebrae in the neck are connected to each other with ligaments and muscles.

A sprain or strain can occur in one or more of these soft tissues when a sudden movement, such as whiplash during a car accident, causes the neck to bend to an extreme position.

Although car accidents can cause a neck sprain or strain, at Riser Physical Medicine, we see a variety of patients for neck pain.

This includes new moms, athletes, office workers, weight lifters, people under a lot of stress, and those with poor posture.

A cervical strain or sprain can be caused by normal everyday activities or from more rigorous activity such as lifting, sports, and trauma.


A person with a neck sprain or strain may experience a wide range of possible symptoms, including:

  • Neck pain

  • Neck stiffness

  • Headaches

  • Neck tension

  • Neck weakness

  • Postural dysfunction

  • “Tech neck”

  • Pain in the shoulders

  • Pain in the upper back

  • Muscle spasms

  • A decreased range of motion of the neck

Depending on the location and severity of the injury, patients may have one or more of these symptoms.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, the first step is to see a doctor for medical evaluation, physical exam, possible imaging, and diagnosis.


To diagnose a neck sprain, you should first visit a doctor who will perform a comprehensive physical exam.

Your doctor may choose to include a Physical Therapy Evaluation, Chiropractic evaluation, and/or movement screening as part of the diagnosing process.

During your physical exam(s), your doctor may ask you the cause of your injury, perform a range of motion assessment, and check for tenderness.

Your doctor may also choose to get X-rays in order to rule out other, more serious sources of your neck pain, such as a fracture.


Our state-of-the art neck pain treatment program is something we take great pride in at Riser Physical Medicine in New York City.

As part of our comprehensive treatment plan for patients with a neck sprain or strain, we integrate multiple disciplines as part of our process, including:

We use a variety of proven techniques to treat neck pain, including:

  • Therapeutic exercises

  • Chiropractic adjustment

  • Acupuncture

  • Soft tissue mobilization

  • Joint mobilization

  • Manual traction

  • Postureal strengthening and re-education

  • Cervical stabilization exercises

  • Myofacial release

  • And cervical realignment techniques

Our track record of success in treating patients with neck pain speaks for itself - that’s why our patients consider us one of the top Neck Pain Treatment Clinics in New York City.

Choose Riser Physical in NYC

At Riser, we’re committed to helping you achieve a healthier, happier, pain-free, and more active You.

At Riser Physical Medicine, we are on a mission to rid New York City of neck pain.

We have over 10 years of experience successfully treating patients for conditions such as neck pain and we are standing by to help you, too.

Our team at Riser Physical specializes in treating musculoskeletal issues and we’re more than happy to help you understand your condition and create a treatment plan that’s right for your needs.

At Riser we specialize in creating rehab and therapy treatment plans for patients looking for non-surgical, minimally-invasive treatments for their joint pain or muscle condition.

We have an amazing team of licensed and experienced physical therapists, chiropractors, pilates experts, pain management specialists, and acupuncturists who are ready to help you get started on improving your quality of life.

If you work with us, you can expect an integrative treatment that is not only evidence-based, but also personal. We give special attention to each and every one of our patients and try to make each session better than the last.

Book an appointment

We offer treatment for cervical strains and sprains at our clinics in New York City. We have offices in Hudson Yards, Murray Hill, Union Square, and Williamsburg.

If you’d like to get in touch with us for an appointment, you can call us at 646-661-2181, email us at, or click the button below to book an appointment.

Cervical Strain/Sprain FAQs

How long does it take for a cervical sprain to heal?

Most symptoms of neck sprain should go away in 4 to 6 weeks. Depending on the severity of your injuries, it may take longer to heal completely.

How do you treat a cervical sprain?

One patient’s treatment plan might differ from another patient’s. Contact us so we can create a treatment plan that’s right for you.

Is a cervical sprain the same as whiplash?

Whiplash is a common type of neck injury that can happen when the neck jolts backward or forward, sharply and suddenly. Whiplash can happen during a car accident, for example.

Whiplash can cause a cervical sprain or strain which may include symptoms such as neck pain.

What is the difference between a cervical sprain and cervical strain?

A strain is an injury of the muscles or tendons, while a sprain is an injury of the ligaments. Tendons and ligaments are soft tissues of the body. When these soft tissues are stressed to the point of injury, it can cause a sprain or strain.

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