How to Treat Neck Pain After Concussion: A Helpful Guide

How to treat neck pain after concussion? Discover effective strategies for relieving cervical spine discomfort and facilitating recovery from head injuries.

After a concussion, neck injuries might not be the first worry. But, they’re quite common.1 A concussion is a head injury with some level of brain trauma. The quick, powerful movements that lead to a concussion can also hurt the neck.1 This might slow down recovery and cause problems that last a long time. Neck pain can come from injuries to the cervical spine, discs, muscles, or ligaments. It can also be caused by whiplash.1 It’s essential to properly treat and manage neck pain for a complete recovery from a concussion.

Key Takeaways

  • Neck pain is a common issue after a concussion, affecting 43-60% of people with the injury.
  • Neck pain can be caused by damage to the cervical spine, discs, muscles, or ligaments, or by whiplash.
  • Recovery from a concussion can vary, with some individuals returning to pre-injury activity within 2 weeks, while others may experience symptoms lasting longer.
  • Neck pain is more common in concussions resulting from falls or motor vehicle accidents compared to sports-related concussions.
  • Increased neck strength can help reduce the risk of concussion among high school athletes.

Understanding Neck Pain After Concussion

A concussion happens when a person’s head and neck go through a sudden, strong movement. This often occurs during a car crash, fall, or while playing sports.2 The brain moves inside the skull as a result. Sometimes, this is called “whiplash.” It can injure the cervical spine, along with other neck parts.2

What Causes Neck Pain Following a Concussion?

After a concussion, feeling neck pain or having trouble moving could mean a worse injury.2 Those who get a concussion from falls or crashes often experience more neck pain than sports injury cases.2

The Role of Whiplash in Concussion-Related Neck Pain

The same movements that cause a concussion can give someone whiplash. Whiplash can damage parts of the neck like the spinal discs and muscles.2 If left untreated, whiplash might increase neck pain after a concussion.

Potential Neck Injuries from Concussions

If the forces leading to a concussion are strong enough, they can cause several neck injuries. These include sprains, strains, disc problems, and even broken neck bones. Such injuries often lead to pain, stiffness, and less neck motion. This makes recovery harder.2

The Importance of Proper Concussion Recovery

Recovering from a concussion takes time and careful steps. It’s vital to avoid making the process longer than it needs to be.3 Bad recovery handling can cause problems that stick around for a long time.3 Each person’s recovery journey should be unique and under the guidance of a skilled healthcare professional. This expert should have special knowledge about concussions and can get the right treatments needed.3

The first symptoms of a concussion often disappear within three days.3 It used to be believed that total rest was the best way to heal, but new findings show that some light, controlled exercise can speed up the recovery.3 For those under 18, getting back to normal takes about 30 days, and for those over 18, it takes about 14 days.3 Yet, some folks might need more time to recover, which is normal too.3

Recovering for longer might happen if the injury at first seems severe, if you’re young (especially 13 to 17 years old), if you’ve had mental health issues before, or if your neck is also hurt.3 Some other things that could make your recovery longer include blurry vision when reading or looking at screens.3 It’s important to note that just because you’ve had migraines or focus issues like ADHD in the past, it doesn’t mean you’ll take longer to recover from a concussion.3 Your age decides how the recovery should be managed by the healthcare team.3

At the University of Michigan, there’s a special place where athletes with head injuries can get top-notch care.3 This NeuroSport clinic focuses on helping people heal from concussions and also deals with any neck pain or other issues that might come with the concussion.

Three Phases of Concussion Recovery

Recovering from a concussion goes through three main phases. First is the time just after the injury, called the acute symptomatic phase. Next is the recovery phase when symptoms ease but you’re not fully back to normal. Finally, the recovered phase means you’re back to how you were before. Knowing about these phases helps with treatment and getting you back to doing what you love.

Phase 1: Acute Symptomatic Phase

The first phase is from the moment you get hurt until your symptoms start to get better. This part usually lasts under 3 days.3 You should rest a lot during this time. But, starting to think a bit or light physical activity after a few days can be good.3 Symptoms should begin to improve in one or two days.3 Remember, taking it easy in the first days is key.3

See also  Concussion Symptoms: Signs to Watch Out For After a Head Injury

Phase 2: Recovery Phase

The recovery phase is when your symptoms are lessening. You can slowly start to think more and do light physical activities.3 Try not to use headache medicine too much to prevent a dependence.3 You will slowly get back to learning, working, exercising, and playing sports.3

Phase 3: Recovered Phase

In the last phase, you’re back to how you were before the injury. The time it takes for each phase varies and depends on different things. These could include how severe your symptoms were, your gender, your age, if you had mental health issues before, and if your neck was also affected.3 Having a history of certain conditions like migraines or not remembering the injury doesn’t always make recovery longer.3 But, if you find your recovery taking too long, make sure you keep in touch with your doctors. They can help you through each step of getting better.3

Management During the Acute Symptomatic Phase

It’s vital to steer clear of specific medicines during the concussion’s acute phase. Avoid aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium.4 For the initial 24 hours, use acetaminophen for pain. After this, turn to ibuprofen and naproxen.4 If you feel nauseous or start to vomit, you might need special medicines.

Sleep and Hydration

Having good sleep and drinking enough water are key now.4 Focus on easing pain, sleeping well, and staying hydrated. This can speed up recovery in the first days after your injury.

how to treat neck pain after a concussion

To help relieve neck pain after a concussion, good posture is key. This prevents extra muscle strain.2 Make sure not to bend your head to look at things. Keep your neck straight.5

Maintaining Good Posture

Good posture is important for neck pain relief. Watch your head’s position and don’t bend or tilt it too much. This can strain your neck.5

Avoiding Neck Strain

It’s important to steer clear of things that can strain your neck more. Cut back on things that make you look up or down a lot. Also, remember to take breaks to give your neck a rest.5

Using Heat and Cold Therapy

Heat and cold therapy are great for neck pain from a concussion. Use ice or moist heat for 15-20 minutes. This reduces swelling and eases the hurt.5

Gentle Stretching and Exercises

Simple neck stretches and exercises can make things better. They boost movement and cut down on stiffness. Make sure to talk to your doctor first.25

neck pain after concussion

By using these tips, neck pain from a concussion can get better. Always check with your doctor. They can give you the best advice for your care and safety.

Gradual Return to Activity During Recovery

After a concussion, it’s important to ease back into thinking and physical activities slowly.3 You can start by spending more time on light thinking activities. Examples include watching TV, reading, and schoolwork.

Increasing Thinking Activities

When your symptoms get better, you can handle more mentally challenging tasks.6 This might include using a computer, going to class, or light socializing. Your healthcare team will guide you, keeping an eye on your symptoms.

Introducing Physical Activity

Adding physical activity back should also be done slowly. Start with easy exercises like biking or walking.6 Don’t jump into activities that put a lot of pressure on your body, unless your doctor says it’s okay.6 Your healthcare team will decide what exercises are right for you, considering your progress and symptoms.

Academic Accommodations After Concussion

After getting a concussion, students might need special help in school. They may have to inform their school about the injury. They could work out a plan to come back to school work slowly. This could involve missing some assignments or tests, taking breaks during the day, and skipping hard physical activities.3

Extra time to finish work or take tests might help, as well as having someone take notes for them. Getting a quiet place to take a test is another option.3 Nearly all student-athletes with head injuries were fully back in school within 10 days.7 Yet, a 2023 study found that staying out of school too long could lead to more problems and slower recovery.7

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The 6th International Concussion Statement from June 2023 suggests a step-by-step school return plan.7 The REAP® tool is very helpful and focuses on four key areas.7 This plan is different for every student, depending on their specific needs. Giving students with brain injuries more time for school tasks is important.7

Prolonged Concussion Recovery

Most people get better from a concussion in 14-30 days. But, 10-30% might take longer to heal.2 It’s important to know why some people take longer. This helps in making better treatment plans and stops long-lasting symptoms.

Factors Associated with Prolonged Recovery

Several things can make concussion recovery longer. These are having a lot of symptoms at first, being a girl, being under 18 (especially 13-17), having past mental health problems, and neck issues at the same time.1

Factors Not Associated with Prolonged Recovery

You might think having a history of migraines, ADHD, or fainting would prolong recovery, but it’s not always the case.1 The key is to get the right care and avoid recovery that takes longer than needed, no matter these situations.

Healthcare teams can make treatment plans that fit each person’s needs by looking at these crucial factors. This personalized approach aims to boost the chances of a full recovery.251

Preventing Future Concussions and Neck Injuries

Keeping future concussions and neck injuries at bay requires safety steps, especially for sports. *Certified headgear and helmets are a must in baseball (batting), football, and more.1 They help avoid these common injuries.1

General Safety Precautions

1 Good posture is key. And, make sure your home is free of fall risks. When in a vehicle, buckle up. It’s a vital step. Avoiding driving drunk and riding with drunk drivers are crucial too.1 These actions help not just in sports, but everyday life.

Neck Strengthening Exercises

1 Studies show that stronger necks cut the concussion risk for high school athletes.8 Exercise to make your neck stronger, like isometric routines twice weekly for 8 weeks.8 This plan helps lower chances of getting hurt.

8 After a concussion, ease back into your routine to avoid making symptoms worse. Physiotherapy offers special care, with tailored exercises to help with neck and vestibular issues.8

Electronic Devices and Screen Time During Recovery

Concussion recovery doesn’t mean you have to avoid screens entirely. Too much restriction can make you feel alone and make symptoms worse.9 It’s best to limit your use of electronics if they make your symptoms worse. But they can also help you stay connected and fight off boredom.

If you’re not careful, long screen time can cause eye problems and make it hard to sleep.9 It might also lead to headaches and tiredness.9 So, it’s important to balance using devices with taking breaks to protect your health.

A study showed that less screen time early on in recovery could help you get better faster.9 People who used screens a lot had worse symptoms.9 So, it’s smart to be mindful about how much time you spend looking at screens.

Most people feel better from a concussion within 30 days.3 Younger people usually take less time to heal than adults.3 But, some might need longer to recover. If you’re still feeling bad, it’s important to see a doctor.3 They’ll help you figure out the best way to get well.

Seeking Professional Help

It’s important to get help from healthcare providers who know about concussions. They can make a plan that’s just right for you.2 They will also look for and treat any other problems that might be making your symptoms worse. Then, they might send you to other specialists who can help, making sure you get the best care possible.

The Role of Healthcare Providers

Experts in concussion care have a key role in helping you get better. They check how bad your injury is, make a special plan for you, and watch how you’re doing.5 By teaming up with you, they deal with all the different parts of getting over a neck injury. This makes for a more complete and successful recovery.

Multidisciplinary Concussion Care

To fully heal from a concussion and the neck pain it brings, many kinds of experts might need to work together.2 Your care team could have doctors, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, and more.5 Everyone will bring something special to your care, making sure they cover all the issues related to your recovery, like the neck pain you feel.

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Neck pain often happens after a concussion. This can be because of the strong movements that cause injuries in the neck.10 Experts have looked into how often neck pain occurs.10 It is very important to manage neck pain well for a good recovery. Doing this includes keeping a good posture and using therapies like heat and cold. Also, doing gentle stretches and exercises helps, as well as slowly going back to normal activities.

If you have had a concussion, you might need more rest. But it’s also important to start being active again slowly. This helps to avoid taking a long time to recover.

Getting help from a healthcare professional who knows a lot about concussions is key. They can create a specific plan to help you get better, preventing a longer recovery.10 There are guidelines for doctors on how to treat concussions and ongoing symptoms. They help doctors know what the best treatments are.11

Studies on concussions in sports like rugby have given us important information. They have shown how different groups of players are affected.10

There are steps you can take to manage neck pain and recover well from a concussion.6 Most people get better in 14 to 21 days. Eating healthily, especially lots of fruits and vegetables, can help your brain heal.10 This includes avoiding too much saturated fat and taking supplements like fish oil. The biopsychosocial model gives doctors a good way to understand and treat concussion-related neck pain fully.


What causes neck pain following a concussion?

After a concussion, neck pain can come from strong head movements. These can cause whiplash and hurt the neck’s bones, discs, muscles, or ligaments.

How does whiplash contribute to neck pain after a concussion?

Whiplash happens when the head and neck suddenly move. This motion can hurt the neck’s bones, muscles, and tissues, leading to pain and stiffness.

What types of neck injuries can occur from a concussion?

Concussions might damage the neck’s spine, discs, or soft tissues. This damage can result in pain and issues moving the neck.

Why is proper management of concussion recovery important?

Good concussion care avoids long recovery times and neck pain issues. It’s key to getting better without more problems.

What are the three phases of concussion recovery?

The recovery from a concussion has three stages. First is the time when symptoms show. Then, the recovery phase follows, ending with the fully recovered phase.

What should be avoided during the acute symptomatic phase of concussion recovery?

Do not take medications that raise the risk of bleeding when symptoms are acute. Use acetaminophen for pain in the first day instead.

How can neck pain be managed after a concussion?

To ease neck pain after a concussion, keep good posture. Also, don’t strain your neck. Use heat and cold, and follow gentle stretching and exercise advice from your doctor.

How should physical and thinking activities be reintroduced during concussion recovery?

Start adding physical and thinking tasks slowly during recovery. Begin with easy exercises and mental activities. Avoid things that make symptoms worse.

What academic accommodations may be necessary after a concussion?

After a concussion, schools may need to know. A plan for a light return to study should be made. This might involve missing some work or tests, getting breaks and skipping hard sport activities.

What factors are associated with prolonged concussion recovery?

Recovery may take longer if symptoms are severe at first. Being a girl, under 18 but especially 13-17, past mental health issues, or neck involvement can delay getting better.

What safety measures can help prevent future concussions and neck injuries?

To prevent more concussions and neck problems, use proper headgear for risky sports. Stand and sit right, keep surfaces safe, belt up, and do exercises to strengthen your neck.

How should the use of electronic devices and screen time be managed during concussion recovery?

Limit screen time to keep symptoms from getting worse. This reduces boredom and isolation. Using computers, phones, and TVs is okay if they don’t make you feel much worse.

Why is seeking professional help important for managing neck pain after a concussion?

Getting help from concussion experts ensures the right care. They make a specific plan, look for hidden problems, and connect you with the right specialists if needed.

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