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Although an accident or other sudden force can be the culprit, bad posture can also be a cause of chronic neck strain. Regularly monitor and correct your posture to prevent neck strain and related problems.

The muscles of your neck control the posture and movement of your head, upper spine and shoulders. Neck strain is the condition resulting from overstretching or tearing these muscles and their tendons - the strong bands that connect muscles to bone.

Causes
Neck strain can be acute or chronic. Causes of acute strains can include sudden, forceful movements such as whiplash or a strong blow to the neck. Chronic strains result from poor posture or repetitive activities that overuse the muscles and tendons of the area.

Symptoms
Symptoms will depend on the extent of the injury. A mild strain may result in neck discomfort, while severe strains can cause great pain and affect your ability to move your head, neck and shoulder. Other symptoms may include swelling, headache, muscle tightness, stiffness and muscle spasms (involuntary contractions). Symptoms of chronic strains may appear and disappear over months or years.

Diagnosis
Your doctor will discuss the history of the injury and symptoms with you. X-rays may be needed to be sure that no bones have been broken.

Treatment
Conservative treatment usually includes a period of rest to limit movement of your head and neck. Ice packs, as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can be used to help ease pain and control swelling as recommended by your doctor

Recovery Outlook
Most patients recover without complications, with a typical recovery period of 6-8 weeks for mild strains. Your recovery depends on your age, overall health, the extent of the injury and how well you follow your doctor's instructions. Use caution to avoid activities that may aggravate the injury during the healing period.