What is a stiff neck?

A stiff neck is pain, soreness or discomfort in the neck, which is often most noticeable with neck movement. If you have a stiff neck, you may find that you need to turn your entire body in order to look to the side or behind you because of the discomfort. A stiff neck is a common condition, and most people will experience it at some point in their lives.

The neck consists of variety of structures, including the cervical spine, spinal cord, cervical discs, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and spinal nerves. Stiffness in the back or side of the neck is often caused by conditions that affect these structures, such as neck stiffness after sleeping in a position that strains the neck muscles.

The neck also includes the trachea, throat, and associated structures, such as the thyroid cartilage (Adam’s apple) and the thyroid gland. A stiff neck can be due to diseases, disorders and conditions of these structures, as well as the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the neck. A stiff neck can also be caused by conditions of the shoulders and head, such as poor posture and tension headaches, respectively.

A stiff neck may indicate a serious condition, such as arthritis or spinal stenosis. Seek prompt medical care if you have unexplained or persistent neck stiffness, or if you are otherwise concerned about your symptoms.

A stiff neck can also be associated with serious and life-threatening conditions, such as heart attack, meningitis, or neck fracture. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have neck stiffness after neck injury or trauma, or numbness, inability to move any part of your body, chest pain, shortness of breath, or neck stiffness with fever or headache.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with a stiff neck?

A stiff neck may occur by itself or it may be accompanied by other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying cause, your medical history, and other factors. Additional symptoms that may occur with a stiff neck include:... Read more about stiff necksymptoms

CAUSES

What causes a stiff neck?

A stiff neck may be caused by conditions that originate in the neck itself, or by diseases and conditions of related areas, such as the shoulders, jaw, head, or upper arms. A stiff neck is often caused by factors that cause a strain of the neck or shoulder muscles, such as sleeping in awkward positions, poor posture, or strenuous activities.... Read more about stiff neckcauses

Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD Last Annual Review Date: May 12, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles


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