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What Are the Causes of a Stiff Neck?

stiff neck

What Are the Causes of a Stiff Neck?

Everyone has woken up with a stiff neck, but if this becomes a chronic problem, you want to find out what is causing it. There are a number of things that can result in a stiff neck and these causes are common. Know what they are and get an accurate diagnosis to find relief.


Injuries that cause your head to jerk violently can cause neck stiffness. The most common injury that can cause this is whiplash. Whiplash is characterized by the soft tissues in the neck being torn or overstretched. The following symptoms can occur:

  • Stiffness and pain in the neck
  • Range of motion loss
  • Pain or tenderness in your upper back, arms or shoulders
  • Arm numbness or tingling
  • When you move your neck, the pain gets worse
  • Headaches that typically begin at the skull’s base
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

Most cases of whiplash are minor and the symptoms, while uncomfortable, resolve over one to two weeks. However, there is the potential for more significant symptoms and these can include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Sleeping problems
  • Problems with concentration
  • Depression
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Irritability
  • Problems with memory

Osteoarthritis in the Neck

The joints in your neck degenerate over time, resulting in inflammation. There is the potential for narrowing to occur, causing nerves to be pressed on. This can cause a number of symptoms, including:

  • Pain that goes between the shoulder blades and into the shoulder
  • Pain tends to be at its worst at day’s end
  • Headaches
  • Stiffness is worst in the morning

Muscle Spasm

A muscle spasm is involuntary and sudden. It occurs when at least one muscle contracts suddenly, causing noticeable pain. If you move your neck the wrong way or experience an injury that affects your neck, you can experience a spasm. The pain tends to be sharp, you will have trouble moving your neck and you can often feel a hard lump right below the skin.

Pinched Nerve in the Neck

A pinched nerve in your neck is most often associated with arthritis or a herniated disc in your neck. This condition tends to be very painful and this means that you work to protect your neck and naturally limit movement to protect yourself from the pain. This can lead to stiffness since you are purposely trying not to move your neck.


People with fibromyalgia tend to experience muscle pain all over their body, including in their neck. This can also come with a stiff neck, especially in the morning and after you participate in a lot of activity. The pain tends to be dull and constant and difficult to alleviate. Other potential symptoms include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Trouble sleeping

All of the stiff neck causes above have viable treatment options. You can get relief and not have to live with your stiff neck. If your neck stiffness persists or worsens, you should contact your healthcare provider.

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