Depending on the extent of the damage, symptoms of a neck strain or sprain can range from mild discomfort to painful muscle spasms.
There are numerous soft tissues (including muscles, tendons, and ligaments) that attach in and around your cervical spine (neck). These muscles, tendons, and ligaments all work in tandem to support your neck and head. At the same time, they also enable movement in your neck. A neck strain or sprain occurs when one or more of these soft tissues is stretched beyond its normal range (or is injured in another way).
Muscle strain examples
The trapezius muscle is a large muscle that connects your shoulders and neck. Its function is to control the large motor movements in your neck. When your trapezius muscle is stretched beyond its normal capacity, it can lead to pain and stiffness in your neck, shoulder blades, and shoulders.
Common injuries that lead to neck strain
Damage to your soft tissues often results from a sudden injury, such as whiplash injury. Whiplash can occur as a result of a car accident, in which your head is forced suddenly forward and then backward. Neck strain can also result from poor posture over time. For example, leaning forward and/or looking down for long periods while texting or looking at a computer screen can take its toll on your neck (a phenomenon known as text neck). Inflammation and muscle spasms may also occur around the injury as your muscles work to stabilize your soft tissues, and these muscle spasms can be extremely painful.