A stiff neck can cause discomfort and may limit your range of motion. In most cases, it lasts anywhere from a day or two to many weeks, although it may occasionally be a symptom of a more serious underlying medical condition.
A person with a stiff neck should rest the affected area and avoid over-exertion. Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can also be used to reduce symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of a Stiff neck?
A stiff neck can be annoying but also a sign of an underlying health issue. If you have a sudden stiff neck accompanied by fever, headache, nausea or vomiting, visit your doctor immediately.
The neck comprises muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones (vertebrae). It’s also protected by discs that absorb shock when you move your head.
Symptoms of a stiff neck can result from anything that causes stress or damage to these components, including accidents, sports injuries and overuse. Arthritis can also cause stiffness in the neck and interfere with everyday activities.
Infections are another common cause of a stiff neck. One of the most dangerous infections is meningitis, which can cause severe fever, headache and a stiff neck.
Fortunately, most cases of neck stiffness are easily treated at home with rest, ice and heat therapy. If you have a fever, meningitis symptoms, or neck pain from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, see your doctor.
What causes a stiff neck?
A stiff neck is a condition where the muscles and joints in your neck become inflamed. It can occur from muscle strains, joint issues, or infection.
The cervical spine consists of seven bones called vertebrae that are kept together by ligaments. Pain, numbness, and stiffness can result from inflammation of these structures.
Various activities, including sports and work-related tasks, can stress your neck. This can cause a condition called cervical spondylosis.
If you are experiencing a stiff neck, there are ways to treat it at home. Try ice, heat, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and pain.
You should see a doctor if your neck symptoms are severe or last for more than a month. This can be especially true if you experience a fever, headache, nausea, light sensitivity, or trouble sleeping.
Stiff neck Treatment
Most people with neck pain and stiffness will improve within a few days. However, if your symptoms don’t improve or become chronic (lasting longer than a few weeks), it might be time to speak with your doctor about treatment options.
A combination of treatments can often help relieve neck stiffness and pain. Lifestyle changes may also be effective, such as avoiding certain activities or taking breaks while doing them.
Cold therapy/ice packs are helpful in most cases because they reduce inflammation, which allows the muscles to heal more quickly. Applying ice to the affected area for up to 15 minutes several times during the first 48 hours of a flare-up can be most effective.
Heat therapy can also be helpful, especially if you alternate it with cold treatment. You can do this by applying a damp towel to your neck and shoulders, then cooling it. Once it’s cooled, repeat this process to ease pain and reduce swelling.
Stiff necks are irritating but treatable. Resting it for a day or two and using ice will reduce inflammation, pain, and aid recovery.
It’s also important to avoid jerking your head or twisting it. These movements can cause further discomfort and even a muscle spasm.
To prevent this, ensure your posture is correct when sitting or standing, and try to change position often. This exercise keeps the muscles of your neck strong and supple, which helps them recover faster when they become tight or sore.
Alternatively, you can apply an ice pack or heating pad several times a day to relieve pain and increase blood flow in the area. These treatments can also be combined with simple stretches to ease stiffness and restore your range of motion.