Call Us Today: (407) 438-2432
SafeCare Docs – Central Florida
Accident Injury Medical Care
Serving Central Florida
Stiff Neck Symptoms & Signs
Stiffness in the neck can arise as a result of disorders and diseases of any structure in the neck. The neck contains seven cervical vertebrae that are the bony building blocks of the spine in the neck; these vertebrae surround the spinal cord and canal. Between these vertebrae are discs, and nearby pass the nerves of the neck. Within the neck, other structures and organs include the neck muscles, arteries, veins, lymph glands, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, esophagus, larynx, and trachea. Neck stiffness can be associated with symptoms such as
stiffness in the shoulder.
Stiff neck is most commonly due to damage to the bones, nerves, and/or muscles of the neck. However, stiff neck is also a symptom of meningitis (along with headache and fever). Neck stiffness may also develop as a reaction and result of muscle spasm in various conditions that cause neck pain, including traumatic injuries.
Sudden acute injuries: Stiff Neck
Minor neck injuries may result from tripping, falling a short distance, or excessive twisting of the spine. Severe neck injuries may result from whiplash in a car accident, falls from significant heights, direct blows to the back or the top of the head, sports-related injuries, a penetrating injury such as a stab wound, or external pressure applied to the neck, such as strangulation.
Pain from an injury may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may develop soon after the injury. Acute injuries include:
– An injury to the ligaments or muscles in the neck, such as a sprain or strain. When neck pain is caused by muscle strain, you may have aches and stiffness that spread to your upper arm, shoulder, or upper back. Shooting pain that spreads down the arm into the hand and fingers can be a symptom of a pinched nerve (nerve root compression). Shooting pain is more serious if it occurs in both arms or both hands rather than just one arm or one hand.
– A fracture or dislocation of the spine. This can cause a spinal cord injury that may lead to permanent paralysis. It is important to use correct first aid to immobilize and transport the injured person correctly to reduce the risk of permanent paralysis.
– A torn or ruptured disc. If the tear is large enough, the jellylike material inside the disc may leak out (herniate ) and press against a nerve or the spinal cord (central disc herniation). You may have a headache, feel dizzy or sick to your stomach, or have pain in your shoulder or down your arm.
Emergency care is required for a neck injury that causes damage to the spinal cord. Symptoms of a spinal cord injury include loss of movement or feeling, numbness, tingling, difficulty controlling the muscles of the arms or legs, and loss of bowel or bladder control.
Conditions that may cause neck problems
Neck problems may not be related to an injury.
– Arthritis or damage to the discs of the neck can cause a pinched nerve. Neck pain caused by a pinched nerve generally affects one side of the neck and the arm on that side. Other symptoms may develop, such as numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arm or hand.
– Meningitis is a serious viral or bacterial illness that causes inflammation around the tissues of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms come on quickly and include severe headache, stiff neck, fever, and sometimes vomiting. The neck stiffness makes it hard or impossible to touch the chin to the chest.
– The flu, which usually is not serious, can cause symptoms similar to meningitis. When neck pain is caused by flu, the neck and the rest of the body tend to ache all over, but severe neck stiffness is absent.
– Neck pain that occurs with chest pain may be caused by a serious problem with the heart, such as a heart attack.
– Stress and tension may make the muscles that run from the back of the head across the back of the shoulder (trapezius muscle) feel tight and painful. You may not be able to move your head without pain.
– Torticollis is caused by severe muscle contraction on one side of the neck, causing the head to be tilted to one side. The chin is usually rotated toward the opposite side of the neck. Torticollis may be present at birth (congenital) or caused by injury or disease.
Treatment: Stiff Neck
Treatment for a neck problem or injury may include first aid measures, physical therapy, manipulative therapy (such as chiropractic or osteopathic), medicine, and in some cases surgery. Treatment depends on:
The location, type, and severity of the injury.
Your age, health condition, and activities (such as work, sports, or hobbies).
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.