What Different Conditions Can Cause a Stiff Neck?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
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Usually, sore and strained muscles are the cause of neck stiffness. The neck is full of tendons, nerves, and muscles, which are used in all sorts of daily activities, making them particularly vulnerable to injury. Neck stiffness can also be a symptom of certain illnesses, some of which can be quite dangerous, and in certain cases, serious conditions like heart attacks can lead to a stiff neck. Experts suggest that the best way for someone to evaluate stiffness in the neck is to look at the set of circumstances that led to the condition, and analyze any other possible accompanying symptoms.

Generally, the most dangerous things that can cause stiffness in the neck include illnesses such as meningitis along with certain cardiac conditions. Usually, someone suffering from meningitis or something similar will also develop a fever and other flu-like symptoms in addition to the neck stiffness. In cases where neck stiffness is caused by a cardiac condition, the person might also have other issues like shortness of breath, numbness, or arm pain. Generally speaking, if someone has a stiff neck, any additional symptoms could be a sign that something more serious than a muscle strain could be responsible. Since many of these issues are potentially dangerous, emergency medical attention might be an absolute necessity.


People strain muscles in their necks in a wide variety of ways, including everything from overexerting in athletic activities, to subtle ergonomic issues, such as bending over too far to read a computer monitor over a long period of time. Sometimes people get a stiff neck simply by sleeping in an awkward position. Minor strains in the neck muscles can be extremely painful, and can make it very hard to move the neck at all, but experts suggest that these injuries usually heal within a few days, rarely requiring medical treatment.

Sometimes a stiff neck can develop after a more serious injury, such as a car accident or a bad fall, possibly resulting in some kind of spinal damage. This kind of strain will generally lead to greater discomfort and there may be additional symptoms for some people, such as paralysis and swelling in the neck. Injuries like these can be very dangerous and will generally require immediate medical attention. When neck stiffness comes from a severe sprain or some kind of spinal damage, neck braces and other healing-aids are often required. In this case, it can take longer for individuals to recover, with some injuries leading to permanent impairment.


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Post 3

@simrin-- Don't worry. If you don't share cups or utensils with anyone, you won't get it. The other name for mono is kissing disease, it only passes through saliva.

Viral infections are very bad. I had a terrible strep throat infection a couple of years ago. My neck was so stiff, I couldn't even move it and I lost my voice due to sore throat.

It was but it took me a while to recover. Usually antibiotics are not given for viral infections but I had to take it because my lymph nodes became swollen and infected as well.

Post 2

I'm in college and I'm staying at the dorms. A girl on our floor had been complaining about having a stiff neck, headache and sore throat. I heard yesterday that she was diagnosed with mononucleosis and has to stay at the hospital for a few days.

We've been told to pay attention to hygiene and wash our hands often. I hope no one else has it, I don't want to get it!

Post 1

I used to wake up with a stiff neck all the time before. Since I've purchased an orthopedic sleeping pillow, I haven't had this problem at all. The pillow we sleep on is more important than we realize.

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