What Causes a Stiff Neck and Sore Throat?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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While a stiff neck and sore throat may be the result of a person keeping his head in an uncomfortable position, along with snoring or breathing through the mouth during sleep, the causes may also be viral or bacterial. They can be symptoms of viral meningitis, mumps or mononucleosis, which are viral illnesses. Strep throat is a bacterial cause of these two symptoms.

It is not uncommon for children get strep throat infections, and adults are susceptible as well. The Streptococcus (strep) bacteria can be easily transmitted to others through coughing or sneezing, since the bacteria of an infected person is in the nose and mouth. Hand washing may help prevent transmission, but strep is highly contagious. A young children may be refusing food due to pain when swallowing, and this may be accompanied by fever, vomiting and headache, in addition to muscle soreness, a stiff neck and sore throat.

Strep throat pain usually feels more severe than that caused by a cold or other virus. Since the cause is bacterial, antibiotics are required to treat it. It's especially important to get children who are thought to have strep to a medical professional within 10 days of the onset of symptoms or acute rheumatic fever, which is thought to lead to heart disease, may develop. Adults should also get antibiotic treatment for strep throat, although they are not as likely as children to develop the more serious illness.


Mononucleosis (mono) is another common cause of a neck and throat pain. In this condition, which is often caused by the Epstein Barr virus, swollen lymph nodes in the neck can become quite painful. Mono is called the "kissing disease" as it's often passed on to others from germs in the mouth. It may also be transmitted from a cough or sneeze. Teens especially are susceptible to mononucleosis which may begin with fatigue, headache and a fever.

Mumps symptoms often include difficulty swallowing, and it often causes nausea, muscle aches, stiffness and earaches as well. One of the complications of mumps is viral meningitis, a brain infection that may cause a sore throat, fatigue, headache, stiff neck and fever. Although anyone can get viral meningitis, it's another one of the medical conditions that is more commonly seen in children. Other than a complication of mumps, viral meningitis may also be caused by intestinal viruses.


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Post 4

I have a sore throat, stiff neck, earache and sweats.

Post 3

@ankara-- I'm not a doctor so I don't know for sure. The several times I had these symptoms, I was diagnosed with a viral infection.

Do you also have swollen lymph glands? If so, it's probably a viral infection. I haven't heard of sinuses causing stiff neck symptoms before. Sinuses usually cause migraines, ear aches and draining, right?

You should see your doctor for a diagnosis.

Post 2

Can a sinus infection cause these symptoms?

Post 1

Mononucleosis needs to be treated immediately just as strep throat or it can cause serious complications.

My brother had mono last month but he didn't take time off from work. He didn't take antibiotics either, he tried to get through his sore throat and stiff neck with pain relievers and cough drops.

Of course, it didn't work and the virus traveled to his heart and caused swelling in the outer sack. He was hospitalized for close to a week this month. He even had to have an angiography.

Eventually, his doctors figured out that the mono virus was responsible for it. He's better now but I wish he had taken his symptoms more seriously before and had received proper treatment.

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