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Neck Strain in Children: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Your child has strained the muscles and ligaments in their neck. A sudden, awkward movement can strain the neck. This often occurs with falls or car crashes or during certain sports. Everyday activities like using a computer or sleeping can also cause neck strain if they force the neck to be in an awkward position for a long time.

It is common for neck pain to get worse for a day or two after an injury, but it should start to feel better after that. Your child may have more pain and stiffness for several days before it gets better. This is expected. It may take a few weeks or longer for it to heal completely. Good home treatment can help your child get better faster and avoid future neck problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Try heat or ice, whichever feels better. Apply it for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Put a thin cloth between the heat or ice and your child's skin. You might also try switching between heat and ice.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • Store your child's prescription pain medicines where no one else can get to them. When your child is done using them, dispose of them quickly and safely. Your local pharmacy or hospital may have a drop-off site.
  • Gently rub the area to relieve pain and help with blood flow. Do not massage the area if your child says that it hurts to do so.
  • Help your child to not do anything that makes the pain worse. Have your child take it easy for a couple of days. Your child can do usual activities if they do not hurt their neck or put it at risk for more stress or injury.
  • Have your child try sleeping on a special neck pillow. Place it under the neck, not under the head. Placing a tightly rolled towel under your child's neck while they sleep will also work. If your child uses a neck pillow or rolled towel, do not let them use another pillow at the same time.
  • To prevent future neck pain, have your child do exercises to stretch and strengthen the neck and back. Teach your child to use a good posture, safe lifting techniques, and proper body mechanics.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child is unable to move an arm or a leg at all.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse symptoms in his or her arms, legs, chest, belly, or buttocks. Symptoms may include:
    • Numbness or tingling.
    • Weakness.
    • Pain.
  • Your child loses bladder or bowel control.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child is not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.