A stiff neck is characterized as soreness in the neck that reduces the normal range of motion. It is important to note that the neck is comprised of various nerves, muscles, cushioning layers and vertebrae. These structures work hand in hand to allow the neck to freely move up and down and from side to side.
There are certain conditions that cause stiff neck in varying severity. Some are considered common while others are medical emergencies that entail immediate treatment.
Direct trauma to the neck can lead to unusual or disrupted neck movement where a ligament can tear. The usual symptoms linked with a neck sprain include the following:
- Neck pain that is aggravated by movement
- Stiff neck with reduced range of motion
If the nerves are involved, an individual with neck sprain can also suffer from tingling or numbness in the arms or hands. Even though a neck sprain can trigger intense stiff neck and pain, it is not generally a serious condition and typically heals within 4-6 weeks with adequate rest and immobilization of the neck using a soft collar.
Cervical spondylosis involves gradual deterioration of the spine. The condition typically develops due to the aging process but can also occur because of previous neck injuries, surgery and arthritis. The symptoms of cervical spondylosis include the following:
- Pain and stiff neck
- Weakening of the arms
- Persistent headaches
- Tingling or numbness in the arms and shoulders
The indications of the condition can be managed with a combination of over-the-counter medications for pain, muscle relaxants as well as physical therapy.
Meningitis involves infection that leads to the inflammation of the meninges. The meninges are the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord as well as providing protection to the central nervous system.
Once the meninges are swollen, it can cause intense headache, fever, nausea, sleepiness, difficulty concentrating and increased sensitivity to light. It is important to note that meningitis can also be triggered by bacteria, viruses or fungi. The viral type is the common cause and typically clears with adequate bed rest, increased fluids and pain medications.
Bacterial meningitis is considered uncommon, but can be life-threatening since it necessitates immediate hospitalization. At the hospital, intravenous antibiotics along with anti-inflammatory drugs are given.