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  Fitness > Sports Injuries >  << Previous|Next >>

Neck Injuries

Your neck can move freely forwards, backwards and sideways. Twisting is the only limited movement in the neck (cervical) region, and this is compensated for by the freedom of rotation in the thoracic region immediately below. The necks forms the main support for your skull, so its movements allow you to turn your head, so that you can see in various directions, or move your head away from danger. Your shoulder movements co-ordinate with your neck movements, because of the muscular links. The muscles may hold your neck still, for instance when you extend your arms in shaping up for a dive. Or your neck may move at the same time as your shoulders, as when you serve in tennis, turning your head to watch the ball as you throw it up.

Like the rest of the spine, your neck encloses and protects your spinal cord, which emerges from your brain through a hole in your skull, and then extends downwards in the canal formed by the bone struts at the back of the vertebral blocks.

Inflammatory joint disease can cause pain in the neck joints. You can have neck pain related to certain viral infections. Influenza often causes aching and stiffness on one or both sides of your neck. Pain can be referred to your neck from internal regions, such as your diaphragm or breathing muscle.

You can hurt your neck through a sudden traumatic injury, for instance if you hit your head in a fall from a height, or if your head or neck is wrenched. This type of accident can happen in sports like riding, gymnastics, diving, rugby, judo and boxing. If the injury is severe, and there is a chance that the neck might have broken, the victim must be kept still, as there is a risk of total paralysis. For less severe strains, you can apply ice to relieve the worst of the discomfort. If possible, the neck should be supported, for instance by a folded newspaper wrapped around it and held in place by a towel or scarf. You should then refer to your doctor or local casualty department as quickly as possible, in case you need to have X-rays taken.

Your neck can also be injured by gradual, overuse strains. Too much strain on your neck muscles through a long bout of tennis practice, throwing the javelin, archery or hand-stands in gymnastics can cause this type of gradually increasing pain. The actual damage may vary from an injury to one or more of the neck joints, involving a strain or tear in ligaments, joint capsule, or small muscle, to gross damage to one or more of the discs. The muscles over the damaged joint usually go into spasm to protect the joint from more harm, and you feel tightness and soreness in the trapezius on the injured side. Occasionally, neck joint problems happen following an injury to the neck muscles, because the injured muscle, becoming taut, pulls against the joints and distorts them. Accurate diagnosis of neck injuries is a matter for the specialists, and the problem should be treated, before you try to resume your sport.

Following an injury, your specialist may recommend you to do specific neck exercises, to make your neck joints stronger and more flexible. Once you have recovered, you should include some neck exercises in your warm-up before doing sport, and, if possible, as a general daily routine. At no stage should you do any movements which cause pain, during or after the exercise.

While your neck is painful, your specialist may give you a supporting collar to wear, made of hard or soft material.

As in the rest of the spine, a neck problem can cause referred symptoms. You may feel pain, tingling or numbness down your arm into your hand. The symptoms may form a continuous line down your arm to your hand, or only one part of your arm may be affected, in which case it may be more difficult to relate the symptoms to your neck problem. A ligament strain, or minor damage to a disc, will cause intermittent referred symptoms, which you can relieve by altering the position of your neck, perhaps stretching your neck away from the affected arm. A major disc problem causes unremitting pain. In either case, you should ask your doctor for specialist help, and you should not do any sport or strenuous activities until you have recovered.

Headaches and dizziness can also be caused by neck problems, either through spasm in the neck muscles, or because your injury is interfering with the flow of your circulation between your vertebrae.

Wear-and-tear arthritis can happen in the neck joints, causing pain in your neck, with or without referred symptoms in your arms. It is important to maintain as much mobility and strength in your neck as you comfortably can, while avoiding stressing the joints with heavy loading or strenuous sports. Your doctor will advise you on the type and amount of exercise you should be doing, on the basis of your symptoms and the changes visible on your X-rays.

Serious Symptoms
While dull aches can be annoying and even ignored, severe pain or pain accompanied by other symptoms may indicate a serious underlying disease that requires medical attention. If you have any of the following symptoms associated with pain in your neck, you are urged to seek medical assistance:

- Fever May indicate an infection.
- Frequent, painful or bloody urination May indicate a kidney   problem.
- Leg pain traveling down to or below the knee May indicate a   possible disc problem.
- Numbness, tingling, weakness or loss of bladder or bowel control    May indicate a nerve or disc problem.
- Persistent pain that hasn't improved and can not be relieved May   indicate a serious back disorder or injury.

Reference Source 91

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