Typically, a stiff neck is characterized by soreness and difficulty moving the neck, especially when trying to turn the head to the side. As if a stiff neck isn’t already just the worst, it may be accompanied by headache, neck pain, shoulder and/or arm pain and cause the individual to turn their entire body when trying to look sideways or backwards as opposed to just the neck
Stiff Neck Symptoms
Stiff neck symptoms can last anywhere from a couple of days to a week and pain can range from annoyingly mild to extremely painful and limiting. Most episodes of neck pain are acute and heal quickly due to the durable and recuperative nature of the cervical spine, with few cases being indicative to more serious medical condition.
Stiff Neck Causes
The most common cause of neck pain or stiffness is from muscle sprain, muscle strain, a spasm of the neck muscles or an inflammation of the neck joints. Common activities that may cause this kind of pain include:
holding your head in a forward posture or odd position when watching tv, working or reading
sleeping on a pillow that does support your head or that is too high or too flat or sleeping on your stomach with your neck twisted or bent
spending long periods of time in the “thinker’s pose”– resting your forehead on your upright fist or arm
stress can cause tension which makes the muscles that run from the back of the head to the back of the shoulders (trapezius muscle) feel tight and painful
work or exercise that uses the upper body and arms
holding your neck in odd positions, such as cradling a phone in between the neck and shoulder
Like we mentioned before, there are some instances wherein neck stiffness or pain can be indicative to a more serious medical condition. Such conditions can include meningitis. If you have a stiff neck accompanied by high fever, headache, nausea or vomiting, or sleepiness, you could be suffering from meningitis; a bacterial infection that causes the protective membrane of the brain and spinal cord to be inflamed.
Anytime a stiff neck is accompanied by a fever, you should seek medical attention.
Stiff Neck Treatment
In most cases, a stiff neck may be treated within a few days with conservative care in the form of over the counter pain medications, heat/ice therapy, or physical therapy and muscle conditioning. However, you should seek medical attention if your symptoms do not subside after one week. You should also seek immediate medical attention if neck stiffness is noted after traumatic injury, like whiplash.
Always, the hope is that conservative treatments will be effective and the healing process will be quick and your quality of life will return soon. However, when surgery is indicated, Nebraska Spine Hospital is here to provide you the very best in spine surgery.