A Pulled Neck Muscle can be caused by something like a car accident or playing sports, though some people will have neck pain sleeping wrong at night and call that a pulled muscle.
Technically, it's not.
A pulled muscle in the neck is an injury to the tendon, not just a neck muscle cramp or spasm.
Neck muscle pulls are entirely different from a neck Tendonitis dynamic, but a pulled muscle can cause Tendonitis.
If you have a crink in your neck after some activity or after a nights sleep, that's not really a 'pull', that's more of a 'tweak', or spasm (stuck in spasm, really).
And there's a lot that goes into the dynamic of a 'tweak'.
But techically, Pulled Muscle Symptoms come from a tear in the muscle's tendon, actual damage.
Again technically, a 'pull' is a tear that is less than 5% of the tendon's width, whereas if the damage is bigger than 5%, it is classified as a 'tear'.
So let's hope that you're having symptoms from a pulled neck muscle (which is really a damaged tendon), and not from a torn tendon.
Basically a muscle stuck in cramp/spasm. Usually rest and time will have the body take care of this. The sooner you make it go away, the better.
Muscle Pull: A tiny tear somewhere in the muscle's tendon. This usually feels about the same as a tweak, but lasts longer and hurts a little worse. Stubborn and take a long time to 'go away' unless you do specific work to make it heal faster.
Muscle Tear: A tear of more than 5% of the tendon. This can be debilitating in the short term, and even the long term, depending on the extent of the tear.
If the muscle contracts and you have PAIN, and/or if the muscle just won't work, that's likely a tear. (Ideally the nervous system won't let you contract it enough to tear it more.)
There are several factors that all interplay and set you up for getting a pulled neck muscle and neck pain symptoms.
1. Chronic Tension:
Muscles get tight. And for a variety of reasons, they stay tight. And Connective Tissue shrink wraps down to fit, forcing the muscle to be 'stuck' tight.
So for months and years, there is CONSTANT tension on the tendon structure. The more tension, the more strain. The more strain, the more opportunity for injury. Especially when you add in the following factors.
Tendonitis is an ongoing process of increasing tightness and pain signal, and potentially also wear and tear injury of the tendon and scar tissue formation.
The problem is, scar tissue is structurally weaker than the original tissue. So little by little, a spot can get structurally weaker and weaker.
Combine that with #1 and #3, it's a recipe for injury.
3. Applied Force:
When running the head jostles, in a Whiplash situation, the head jerks back and forth, and you have force quickly applied to a structure that can cause a pulled neck muscle.
Injury happens, and the body responds accordingly, and you're left with neck pain and other symptoms in the neck area.
When sleeping, especially if the head is at a weird angle, or propped up on too big of a pillow, the muscles have to work HARD all night to hold your neck/head together.
It's like sleeping while holding up a 20 pound barbell for hours. This obviously can put strain on a muscle/tendon structure.
Usually this sleeping injury is more of a 'tweak', and the muscles just get locked in spasm.
But depending on your situtation, and especially if you already have whiplash injury, sleeping like this can inclrease the injury from a tweak to a pull to a tear or bigger tear.
4. Nutritional Deficiency:
Not enough Magnesium and your muscles can get stuck in spasm, which equals neck painn and extra chronic tension on your tendons.
Not enough protein intake/usable protein, and your connective tissue slowly gets weaker and weaker, which obviously can set you up for a tendon injury.
Not enough circulation to a tendon means that you don't get enough vital nutrients to the tendon, and tendon tissue can start to die, thus resulting in Tendonosis.
Tendonosis is when parts of your tendon slowly start to die from lack of circulation.
Too much strain on a weakened structure and HELLO tendon injury, big or small!
Ranging from a tweak to a tear, it just all depends. One can be in a car accident and have not a single pulled neck muscle from it.
Or one can be in a car accident (or any other impactful situation, even if it's just playing tennis) that results in multiple pulled neck muscles
Point being, whiplash doesn't have to be involved. A tweak or a tear can happen just from looking over your shoulder.
It's not necessarily about the event. It's about the state of affairs of your neck. If your neck muscles are chronically too tight, connective tissue is chronically too tight and crunchy, if your lacking nutritionally, they you're just setting yourself up for neck pain and potential injury.
It doesn't take a lot to keep your neck healthy to PREVENT a pulled neck muscle. And, it's entirely doable to reverse all the factors involved in a neck muscle pull scenario. Even tears can be induced to heal healthily.
How do you reverse whiplash, reverse pulled neck muscles, or prevent those? Everything you need is in Reversing Whiplash ebook.
So, you have pain from a pulled neck muscle.
What to do about that?
You need to deal with the actual injury itself, as well as the body's response to the pain/injury, which can be just as bad and usually accounts for 'injury' lasting for years and decades.
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