Neck pain is quite frequent. Poor posture strains neck muscles from leaning over a computer or hunching over a workbench. Osteoarthritis is one of the other common causes of neck stiffness.
Neck pain might occasionally be an indicator of a more severe problem. Seek medical treatment if you are experiencing neck pain, weakness, numbness in your arms or hands, or pain that shoots into your shoulder or down your arm.
A muscle strain or soft tissue sprain is the most common cause of a stiff neck pain. The levator scapulae muscle, in particular, is prone to injury. The levator scapulae muscle is placed on the back and side of the neck and connects the cervical spine to the shoulder; the third and fourth cervical nerves control the muscle.
The levator scapulae muscle can be strained by a range of everyday activities, including:
- Sleeping in an awkward position with the neck
- Falling or a sudden impact that pulls the head to the side, such as sports injuries
- Repeatedly turning the head side to side during an activity, like swimming the front crawl stroke
- Slouching with lousy posture while looking at a computer monitor or looking down at a mobile phone for extended periods (also known as “text neck”).
- Being under a lot of stress or anxiety, which can cause neck tension
- Holding the neck in an awkward position for an extended period, such as cradling a phone between the neck and shoulder
If the symptoms arise suddenly, such as after a fall during an athletic event, the cause of the stiff neck may be apparent. However, if a stiff neck develops out of nowhere, determining the underlying problem may be difficult.
A stiff neck can range from bothersome discomfort to acute and restrictive pain. Attempting to turn a stiff neck to a specific side or direction frequently results in excruciating discomfort that requires the motion to be halted.
The degree of reduction in neck motion can affect an individual’s activity level. If the head cannot be rotated sufficiently in one direction without significant discomfort, driving should be avoided until neck stiffness symptoms diminish.
Your doctor will ask for a medical history and perform an examination. Tenderness, numbness, and muscle weakness will be evaluated during the exam. It will also assess your ability to move your head in every direction, forward, backward, and side to side.
- X-rays can indicate places in the neck where bone spurs, or other alterations may be pinching nerves or the spinal cord.
- CT scans combine X-ray pictures from various angles to create comprehensive cross-sectional views of structures inside the neck.
- MRI creates comprehensive images of bones and soft tissues using radio waves and a strong magnetic field. Soft tissues include the discs, spinal cord, and nerves that branch from the spinal cord.
It is possible to have X-ray or MRI evidence of structural neck issues without experiencing symptoms. To diagnose neck stiffness pain, imaging examinations should be used with a thorough history and physical exam.
What causes your neck stiffness will determine which neck stiffness treatments you require.
Resting and avoiding the activity that caused the stiffness in the first place are the most typical at-home therapies for a stiff neck.
NSAIDs sold over-the-counter. (Consult your doctor before taking NSAIDs for more than ten days in a row.)
The above-mentioned at-home remedies are commonly used to relieve neck stiffness caused by arthritis. Your doctor or physical therapist may prescribe stretching or exercises to strengthen the muscles around your neck
Medication to treat the virus, bacteria, or fungus that caused the illness is frequently included in meningitis treatments.
Fluids are administered intravenously (IV).
When To See A Doctor
A stiff neck is rarely cause for concern.
Consult a doctor if the stiffness is accompanied by additional symptoms such as fever, headache, or irritability.
The stiffness persists after a few days despite using home remedies such as NSAIDs and mild stretching.
This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have concerns about neck stiffness or any other medical condition, please see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment suggestions.