Learn About Ailments | Neck stiffness

Neck stiffness

Neck stiffness (stiff neck) is commonly caused by wear and tear of the joints, called cervical spondylosis. It is also the primary symptom of meningism, an irritation of the tissue surrounding the spinal cord.
Neck stiffness

In This Article
Causes of neck stiffness Symptoms of neck stiffness
Diagnosis of neck stiffness Related Terms

Neck stiffness is caused by muscle spasms, strains or tension. Neck stiffness is a common problem and can be caused by a number of neck conditions. The primary symptoms of pain, stiffness and restricted movement can be an indication of a more severe problem such as a slipped disc, fracture of the cervical bones of the neck, viral or bacterial infection or a tumour. Neck stiffness can also occur after an injury or car accident whereby the head is forcibly thrown forwards or sideways (known as whiplash).

In children, an inherited condition called 'congenital muscular torticollis' causes neck stiffness. In adults, neck muscle spasms (known as acute torticollis) can be the body's protective mechanism for an underlying neck problem.

Other causes of neck stiffness include:
  • Angina
  • Arthritis
  • Meningitis
  • Lyme disease
  • Polio
  • Sinusitis
  • Stress
  • Tetanus

Neck stiffness can be accompanied by a variety of symptoms depending on the underlying cause of the problem. These can include:
  • Pain
  • Restricted movement
  • Swelling
  • Inflammation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Swollen glands (lymph nodes)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Breathing difficulty

In the majority of cases, neck stiffness is a temporary problem caused by poor posture or sleeping in an awkward position. Symptoms will usually ease after a day and with postural or ergonomic changes you can prevent the problem occurring again.

If your neck stiffness occurs after an injury or accident then you should seek emergency medical attention as there may be serious damage to the neck. If your neck stiffness is persistent, visit your GP.

The GP will make an initial assessment based on your symptoms to rule out any serious underlying problems. If necessary, you may be referred for further tests to identify the cause of your neck stiffness. Tests may include X-rays, CT or MRI scans.

Stiff Neck
Cervical Spondylosis
Slipped Disc
Disc Prolapse
Broken Neck
Cervical Fracture
Neck Muscle
Muscle Spasm
Congenital Muscular Torticollis
Wry Neck
Acute Torticollis
Poor Posture

Therapies to consider
Acupressure Acupuncture Alexander Technique
Ayurvedic Medicine Bowen Therapy Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chiropractic Craniosacral Therapy Deep Tissue Massage
EFT Hawaiian Massage Herbal Medicine
Holistic Massage Indian Head Massage Massage
Naturopathy Osteopathy Physiotherapy
Pilates Reflexology Reiki
Remedial Massage Shiatsu Sports Massage

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