Stiff Neck: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Have you ever woken up, only to find that you cannot turn your head to the sideways? Also, you may also have a headache, shoulder pain and neck pain. The only way you can do so as to turn sideways is to turn the whole body. If this has occurred to you, you might have had a stiff neck.

As simple as it sounds, stiff necks can be very painful and also cause a lot of discomforts. It occurs mainly due to bad sitting or slipping posture, doing strenuous activities such as carrying heavy objects. I am sure this has ever happened to you once in your lifetime. If not, you must be very lucky.

Stiff neck goes away all by itself after a week or so. Individuals should take care of their stiff necks so to manage the pain and also reduce the recovery time. When you take good care of your stiff neck, the likely hood of it coming back is reduced.

What causes Stiff Necks?



Mainly, stiff necks are caused by a muscle strain or a tissue sprain. The scapulae muscle located in the neck is prone to injury. It connects he cervical spine to the shoulders. The Third and fourth cervical nerves control the scapulae muscles.

The levator scapular muscle is prone o strains that occur due to everyday activities such as;

  • Sleeping in a bad position
  • Falling or injury to the neck during sporting activities where the neck is pushed to the side.
  • Poor sitting position while at your office desk while viewing your computer.
  • When you are experiencing stress or anxiety.
  • When you stay in an awkward position for long. For example when breastfeeding a baby for long or staring at your phone for a long time.

The causes of the stiff neck are too obvious when it occurs immediately after a sporting activity or a fall. But if it starts out of nowhere, then the cause may be hard to pinpoint.

Rear Causes of Stiff Neck

Not all cases stiff necks occur due to strain or a fall. Sometimes they may occur due to a disorder of the cervical spine which gives support the neck and also protecting the spine. Here are some of the examples of cervical disorders that can bring about a stiff neck.


Cervical Herniated Disc

This occurs when the outer part of the cervical disc breaks causing the inner portion to leak. The material that leaks create pressure on the nearby tissues.

Cervical Degenerative disc disease

Cervical discs can lose hydration with time, and this causes pressure to increase on the nearby joints and nerves. When this happens, you may experience severe neck pain and stiffness.

Cervical Osteoarthritis

When the cervical joints break down between the vertebral muscles due to arthritis, along with other degenerative disorders like spinal stenosis may cause neck pain and stiffness.

Above are just some of conditions that might cause neck pain and stiffness. Also, factors such as tumors and infections are some of other cause that can lead to neck pain.

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Neck Pain and Stiffness Symptoms

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The symptoms of stiff neck vary from one person to another. They range from a discomfort on the neck to extreme sharp pain. Turning your neck while having a stiff neck can be extremely painful. A person who has neck pain has their motion significantly reduced that they cannot do some activities such as driving until the pain the stiff neck goes away completely.

Common Neck symptoms

  • Stiff Neck. Your neck becomes stiff and moving it becomes difficult especially when you want to move your head from side to side.
  • Sharp pain. You experience sharp pain that is localized on one side of the neck that is stinging and painful.
  • Soreness. The neck pain is painful on one area or spot, and it is not sharp but tender.
  • Radiating pain. The pain radiates from along the nerve, and it is experienced from the neck to the shoulders and arms. The intensity of the pain can be great that is burning in nature.
  • Tingling or numbness. Sometimes when you have a stiff neck, you may experience tingling or numbness in the fingers or general weakness in the fingers.
  • Headaches. Neck stiffness can affect the muscles and nerves that are connected to the head. You can experience a tension headache as a result of tightening of the head muscles. Also, you could get Occipital neuralgla, a headache that occurs as a result of a pinched occipital nerve that causes the neck pain to radiate upwards to the head causing headaches.

When the pain in your neck increases, you may be unable to sleep. The pain could also interfere with your daily activities such as going to work, driving. When the pain becomes extreme accompanies with numbness and tingling feeling in the fingers, please visit a doctor for further diagnosis and treatment.

How Does Neck Pain Occur

Neck pains may start in different ways that eventually lead to something serious. Here are some of how neck pains can develop.

  • Slowly over a duration of time where it starts off with mild pain, that later progress to sharp and uncomfortable pain. This can be experienced after strenuous activity. Chances of the pain reoccurring and getting worse are high.
  • Neck pain can occur immediately after an injury example after a bike accident or a fall or even sleeping in an awkward position.
  • You may also feel neck pain as a result of delayed reaction after an accident. For example, you might be involved n a car accident but later experience the neck pain much later.
  • Sometimes the neck pains may start off during the day with nothing triggering the pains- with no reason.



When Should you Seek Medical Attention


Most of the times, neck pains go away by themselves, but sometimes they might be caused by a spinal cord injury, meningitis, cancer or other back problems.

You should seek medical attention if you experience the below symptoms.

  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.
  •  The general weakness of the arms and legs.
  • Pain that is radiating from the arms or legs.
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control
  • Sudden weight loss.
  • Sudden fever accompanied with chills.
  • When neck pain is accompanied by a headache, nausea or vomiting.

Whenever you have a severe accident that causes injury to the neck such as a fall from the ladder or a car accident, you should immediately consult a doctor for further tests and x rays to examine the degree of damage. By doing this, it will help you reduce risks of paralysis. After the accident, you should avoid any sudden movement to prevent further injury.

Do’s and Don’ts when you have a Stiff Neck

You should always take it easy for a day or two when you have a stiff neck to give it a chance to heal.When the pain becomes extreme; consider using a pain killer or some ice to relieve the pain. Never wear a cervical collar to reduce movement of the neck. Instead, try to stick to your daily activities as much as possible.

Neck pain and stiffness can be irritating when it occurs. The best part it goes away by its self within a period of three days. Always remember to visit a doctor when the pain for a period longer than a week for further diagnosis.

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