A soft-tissue injury is just what it sounds like: an injury to non-bone tissues such as muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The most common types of soft-tissue injuries are neck strains or sprains, which is the tearing of these soft-tissues (a strain is a tear in the muscle or tendon, a sprain is a tear in the ligaments). The healing process for these types of injuries is the same, and there are three phases.
First is the inflammatory stage. When the injury first occurs, swelling will occur often accompanied by neck pain. This stage usually lasts 48-72 hours, and to help deal with it, remember the acronym RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. These are things at home you can do to treat the injury, but you should also call your doctor right away, as he or she might have more treatments and therapies to help reduce the pain. When I first learned “RICE”, I had an ankle sprain. I was told to sit and rest, put my foot up, and put a cold compress on it. The neck or any other part of the body is the same: put a cold compress (wrap a cold pack around the back of the neck or neck and shoulder), rest and avoid stress, and elevate (for the neck – keep good posture, some may use a neck collar to keep it up and relieve nerve pressure).
The second phase is the repair phase, which usually lasts around six to eight weeks. This is when the soft-tissue begins to repair itself and regain its functionality. Treatment at this time is more passive, but you should speak with you doctor about what neck stretching and neck exercises would help your healing process.
The final stage is the remodeling stage. This is the longest of the stages, usually starting six weeks after the injury, and lasting for as long as two years. In this stage your body is increasing the strength of the injured soft-tissue in the neck, and continuing to see your doctor during this time for treatment can be helpful.
Your body has an incredible ability to heal itself after injury. However, you need to help it along the way by speaking with you r doctor or therapist and following his or her instructions. By talking to you doctor directly after your neck injury, and working together on your healing, you will achieve the best possible results for being pain free and having full range of motion.