What to Know About a Stiff Neck?

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What to Know About a Stiff Neck?


A stiff neck can be painful, inconvenient and interfere with your day-to-day activities, as well as your ability to have a good night’s rest. In 2010, more than 16 percent of women and more than 11 percent of men were reported with some type of neck pain and stiffness. 

That number is increasing due to the prevalent use of computers and mobile devices, which force people such as, the retirees, adolescents, mothers, children, university students etc to position their necks at awkward angles. As a matter of fact, looking down on your laptop, mobile phone and or other devices is the most prevalent cause of neck strain. This abnormal position puts a strain on the muscles and soft tissues of your neck 

What is a stiff neck?

A stiff neck is an ache that is typically accompanied with soreness and difficulty moving the neck, especially when trying to turn the head to the side. 

Causes of a stiff neck 

Stiffness of the neck usually occurs when the neck muscles are over stressed, stretched too far or strained. This can cause pain in the neck, ranging from mild to severe that makes it difficult to use the neck muscles or move the head. 

Mentioned below are some of the most common causes of a stiff neck:


Sometimes, stiffness in the neck is a symptom of meningitis, which can be serious. Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, which are coverings on the spinal cord and brain. Meningitis may be caused by viruses, bacteria and fungi. Viral meningitis can get better on its own, but fungal and bacterial meningitis can be life-threatening. 

Some symptoms of meningitis include:

  • Irritability, confusion, or both
  • An inability to wake up from sleep 
  • Vomiting 
  • Sensitivity to light 
  • Nausea 
  • A sudden fever, usually with a stiff neck, a headache, or both 


Arthritis of the neck or cervical spondylosis can also cause neck stiffness and pain, which may increase when lying down. 

The pain may worsen when a person stays in the same position for a long period of time, especially while sitting in front of a computer or driving. Some symptoms of cervical spondylosis include:

  • Weakness in the legs or arms 
  • Numbness in the hands or arms 
  • Headaches
  • Balance problem, trouble walking, or both 


Whiplash is caused by severe neck injuries. It is often experienced during car accidents that cause the head to suddenly jerk forward and backward. Whiplash is an injury to the ligaments, bones and muscles, nerves in the neck, or all of these. It causes stiffness and pain in the neck. 

Some symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Shoulder or back pain 
  • Trouble concentrating or memory loss 
  • Burning in the neck area or a feeling of prickling
  • A headache 

4.Minor sprains and strains 

A stiff neck often emanates from minor strain or injury, possibly due to:

  • Having tense muscles due to stress 
  • Sustaining sports injuries 
  • Looking down at an object repeatedly 
  • Sleeping awkwardly 
  • Slouching or sitting for long periods 

Treatments for a stiff neck 

The most effective way to relieve a stiff neck depends on the cause. Some ways of treating a stiff neck include:

  • Applying ice 
  • Applying heat 
  • Taking over-the-counter medicines: If after applying ice, heat or both does not alleviate the pain of a stiff neck, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help.
  • Stretching 
  • Checking the sleep environment 
  • Paying attention to posture
  • Seeing a dentist 
  • Managing stress 
  • Getting a message 
  • Prevention of a stiff neck 
  • Some of the following measures can help prevent a stiff neck:
  • Exercise regularly 
  • Regularly engage in stress-relieving activities 
  • Be mindful when carrying bags
  • Use an ear piece to talk on the phone 
  • Use proper ergonomics at work 
  • Get a high-quality mattress and pillow that provide the correct amount of support 

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