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Neck pain is undeniably one of the most common health problems, despite the fact that some people may believe that a stiff neck is not a serious enough condition to worry about. But, in reality, stiffness and neck pain are causes for concern! In particular, in some cases, the problem of a stiff neck and the severe pain associated with it may necessitate a visit to the doctor in order to obtain the appropriate treatment. So, if you’re wondering what a stiff neck is and what its common symptoms are, whether it’s necessary to be concerned about having neck pain, and what treatments are available to get rid of it quickly, you’ve really come to the right place! All these questions will undoubtedly be answered in this article, so we encourage you to read from start to finish
As previously stated, while neck stiffness is annoying, it rarely causes a person to have a serious condition that they should be concerned about! However, in rare cases, it may indicate the need for immediate medical attention. As a result, *below we’ve included some ways to determine if a stiff neck is a symptom of a serious underlying medical condition.
When a stiff neck is caused by something other than a strain or sprain, other symptoms are frequently present.
In such cases, keep in mind that at least one other symptom will usually develop alongside or before the stiff, painful neck occurs.
The following are “7 red flags” symptoms that could point to a potentially serious underlying medical condition is causing the stiff neck:
Note: These symptoms should prompt the individual to seek immediate medical attention, but they do not necessarily indicate the presence of a serious condition or a medical emergency.
The most common serious condition associated with a stiff neck is meningitis, which is a bacterial infection that causes the protective membranes of the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed.
A fever, headache, and stiff neck (inability to flex the neck forward, also known as nuchal rigidity) are typical early symptoms of bacterial meningitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As a result, if a person experiences any of these symptoms, they should see a doctor right away.
It should be noted that meningitis symptoms can appear within a few days, and the individual’s condition can worsen slowly or quickly. Treatment for meningitis should begin as soon as possible to ensure a positive outcome. Delays in treatment may result in negative consequences such as hearing loss, brain damage, or even death.
Note: Meningitis does not always cause a stiff neck, and other symptoms may include nausea, heightened sensitivity to light or loud noises, confusion, ….etc.
Other conditions that can cause a stiff neck but require medical attention right away include:
Infection. While meningitis is the most common cause of stiffness and neck pain, a stiff neck can also be caused by a number of other infections.
Cervical dystonia, also called spasmodic torticollis, is a painful condition in which neck muscles involuntary spasm, causing your head to twist or turn to one side. Cervical dystonia can also cause your head to tilt forward or backward in an uncontrollable way.
Tumor. A brain tumor can cause stiffness and neck pain, especially if it is located in the cerebellum. A tumor in the cervical spine, such as from cancer, can make the neck sore and stiff.
Note: In fact, this is not an exhaustive list because a variety of conditions can cause the neck tissues to swell or spasm, leading to stiffness and pain in the neck.
In fact, in most cases a stiff neck is caused by a simple muscle strain or sprain, knowing that a person can recover from it naturally within a few days.
However, there are several treatment options available to help reduce neck pain and stiffness and facilitate healing by following one or more of the tips listed below.
A person can do a number of things on his or her own to start treating a stiff neck and reduce pain. Among the most common self-care strategies are:
Rest. Taking it easy for one or two days allows injured tissues to begin to heal, which helps relieve stiffness and potential muscle spasms.
Swimmers, for example, may want to avoid certain swim strokes that require a lot of head twisting for a few days.
Rest should be limited to one or two days, as too much inactivity can cause muscle weakness, which makes it difficult for weak muscles to adequately support the neck and head.
Cold and heat therapy. Can help relieve most types of neck stiffness associated with pain by reducing local inflammation.
When it comes to reducing inflammation, applying ice for the first 24 to 48 hours after a painful flare-up is usually the most effective.
Additionally, applying hot compresses to the neck can increase blood flow, which promotes a better healing environment. Some patients like ice, while others like heat. Both can be used interchangeably.
Keep neck strong and flexible. When the muscles in the neck are strong and flexible, they can maintain good posture and are less likely to spasm and become painful.
A physical therapist or other certified medical professionals can assist an individual in developing a physical therapy program that includes neck exercises.
After you’ve determined what works best for you, make sure you can maintain neck strength and flexibility at home by continuing with exercises.
Important Note: In addition to lowering the risk of stiffness and neck pain, maintaining a strong, flexible neck and using good posture can help keep the cervical spine healthier in the long term.