What is strangulation injury?

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Strangulation injury: Overview

Strangulation happens when something wraps so tightly around your neck that it causes harm.

Injuries may include:

  • Cuts in the skin around the neck.
  • Damage to your voice box or windpipe.
  • Damage to the main arteries in the neck.
  • Injury to the brain.

Your doctor can provide resources for getting help if your injury was caused by domestic abuse, depression, or other mental health issues.

It may not be safe to take home information like this handout if your injury was a result of domestic abuse. Some people ask a trusted friend to keep it for them. It's also important to plan ahead and to memorize the phone numbers of places you can go for help. If you are concerned about your safety, do not use your computer, smartphone, or tablet to read about domestic abuse.


Strangulation is pressure on the neck that can cause injury to the spinal cord, brain stem, or neck structures; complete airway obstruction; cardiac arrest; or death. Strangulation may be a purposeful action or result from an accident.

How can you care for yourself after a strangulation injury?

  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • If your doctor told you how to care for any cuts on your neck, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash the cut with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover it with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a nonstick bandage.
    • Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.

Strangulation injury: When to call

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

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have a seizure.
  • You have symptoms of a brain injury, such as:
    • Changes in thinking.
    • Changes in movement or feeling.
  • You think that you or someone you know is in danger of being abused.
  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse trouble breathing.
  • You have new or worse trouble swallowing.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have new or increased weakness or numbness in your arms.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have problems with depression or other mental health issues.
  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.