The spinal column and the 33 bones it’s comprised of are typically categorized into three main sections: the cervical spine, thoracic spine and lumbosacral spine. Each of the sections provides different sorts of support and each allows for and manages different sorts of mobility. But as we know, too often all the different sorts of movements we make can lead to an overworking on one particular section, leading to a sprain or strain injury to the neck or spine.

The neck or cervical section of the spine gives us the ability for a wide range of twists, bending and turning during everyday activities and motions. However when our movements or motions are too strenuous or extreme, the neck—which is naturally prone to injury because of the stress of those everyday activities—can become painful and, in some cases, a discomfort can be felt in the upper extremities.

Treating simple neck pain, whether it’s isolated or recurring, usually begins with rest and a cessation of activities that caused the injury. Physical therapy—important for maintaining solid mobility through stretching and in managing pain—can be very useful in the recovery process, as can electrical stimulation, the application of heat, medications to alleviate inflammation and, in more serious cases, a cervical collar to limit movement in order to allow the neck to heal.

Like the cervical spine, the lumbosacral spine is also quite prone to injury due to its weight-bearing capabilities. Here, exerting to much twisting and torqueing on the area can easily cause a sprain or strain that can immediately impede one’s movement and their ability to undertake normal daily activities.

As with sprains to the cervical spine, physical therapy is also an excellent treatment for simple strains to the lumbosacral spine, as are medications for pain and inflammation management. Exercises that strengthen the muscles supporting the back, along with stretching in order to maintain a good range of motion, are vital for a quick and lasting recovery.

Unfortunately, a sprain or strain in the neck or back is sometimes serious enough to warrant stronger treatment such as surgery. If, for instance, the injury includes damage to a disc of the spinal column or there is a stress fracture to a vertebra, surgery may needed to correct the problem. But no matter how minor the neck or back strain or sprain appears to the sufferer, it’s important to consult a physician as even small injuries left untreated can turn into big problems impacting the quality of your life.