Literally! Much more often than not, when an individual sustains a concussion, a complaint of neck pain will accompany it. This is due to the head being directly connected to the neck. When a force or blow to the head occurs, the energy dissipates down into our necks. The force on our head can also cause our neck to move in an awkward position, thus stressing the neck’s ligaments, joints, soft tissue, and muscle. This is commonly referred to as a “whiplash” injury. Our muscles will oftentimes go into “defensive mode” after such an injury. This will feel as if the muscles around the neck are tight, especially the upper trapezius muscle, which sits right at the tops of the shoulders and attaches near the base of the skull. Another common complaint of concussion sufferers may be “knots” or trigger points in the muscles of the neck. This stems from the continuation of the body’s defensive mode, which causes these muscles to contract for protection. This then leads to over-activation of the muscles. In addition to neck pain, the stress to these tissues may cause a loss in range of motion of the neck, stiffness in the neck, pain that radiates down into the arms, headache, dizziness, poor memory, irritability, sleep disturbance, fatigue, and vertigo (the feeling of spinning).
It can be difficult to determine whether the neck has suffered a “whiplash” injury due to its ability to present itself very much like a concussion. Therefore, it is important to undergo a comprehensive exam by a healthcare professional who is efficient in the care of concussions to determine if the neck itself has also been injured after a concussion.
To read more on new research involving concussion, neck injury, and concussion with neck injury, click here: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2014/07/040.html.
References: Leddy, J. J., et al. (2014). “Brain or Strain? Symptoms Alone Do Not Distinguish Physiologic Concussion from Cervical/Vestibular Injury.” Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine 0 (0): 1–6. cjsportmed.com.