Stiff neck – treatments and causes

Stiff Neck – Pain in the neck

A stiff neck and corresponding neck is a common complaint picture, the pillow is mostly on a false attitude, for example, when Working on the computer or Sleeping with thick head, pain is is due. In some people light drafts at the neck complaints. The rigid neck can in rare cases also in connection with serious diseases, such as, for example, a life-threatening inflammation of the brain (Meningitis) and skin. Therefore, it should be done in case of doubt, an urgent medical Review.

Table of contents

Neck stiffness – a brief Overview

A stiff neck is often the result of a cramped neck muscles, and is often based on repetitive, heavy or in the wrong strain. In rare cases neck stiffness may be a Symptom of a more severe disease. Here is a brief Overview of the symptoms:

  • Symptom: limitation of movement of the head, painful blockages at the rear of the throat and neck area, neck stiffness, neck problems, neck pain, sometimes radiating pain in shoulder and arms.
  • Possible causes: muscle tension in the neck area (very common), improper loading, wear and tear, Cervical spine syndrome, meningitis, rheumatism, tumors, infectious diseases, blood poisoning, sun stroke, sinus thrombosis, ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Risk factors: prolonged Sitting, frequent Lifting and Carrying of heavy loads, drafts, Stress, emotional problems, poor posture, incorrect loading, lack of movement.
  • Treatment: Depending on the cause, – medical massage, physiotherapy, pain relieving medications; in the case of heavy wear and tear, surgery may be necessary; in the case of bacterial infections antibiotics can be administered.
  • Naturopathy: acupuncture, osteopathy, chiropractic, Rolfing, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic Training, homeopathy.


A stiff neck and describes a movement affecting the head, which emanates from pain and blockages in the neck area. It is important to distinguish a stiff neck from the broader designation of “stiff neck”, which includes movement restrictions, which emanate from the lateral neck muscles. In the case of a stiff neck is the origin of the complaints is limited, however, to the rear neck area.


A stiff neck shows up as a painful blockage in the back of the neck area. The normal movement ability of the head is significantly reduced. This relates to the so-called functional causes in General, only certain movements, such as, for example, turns to the right, or Tilting the head to the front. Of neck stiffness are diseases, however, such as, for example, a Meningitis, underlying, can be lost the movement ability of the neck to temporarily complete.

Often the pain from the rays with a stiff neck to the shoulders and arms, so that accompanying shoulder blade pain and upper arm pain is not uncommon. The complaints may vary depending on the triggers in acute Form occur, but also as a chronic neck stiffness. Furthermore, according to observe the causes of a stiff neck many different accompanying symptoms can range symptoms of sensory disturbances such as tingling in the limbs, a feeling of numbness in the head or the regular falling Asleep of the hands, right up to massive headaches, back pain and paralysis. The Affected individuals show to accompany a high fever, is this rate as a warning sign for a serious condition and it should be as short as possible to go to a doctor.

Other symptoms that may occur in connection with a stiff neck, are then described in the context of the respective causes.

Caution: With these symptoms immediately to the doctor

In most cases, a stiff neck is harmless and easy to treat. Sometimes a stiff neck can indicate but also more serious diseases such as brain inflammation, rheumatism, tumors, infection, disease, or ankylosing spondylitis skin. If the neck stiffness of one or more of the following concomitant emergence of complaints, should immediately go to the doctor:

  • The stiff neck that occurs after a car accident or fall.
  • There may be fever occurs in addition.
  • Lose inexplicably to body weight.
  • It is a tumor disease in the past.
  • It comes in addition to gait disturbances or Walking difficulties.
  • In the arms or legs, strong nerves of a pain.

Risk factors

There are numerous factors that favor the Occurrence of a stiff neck. Who often suffers from a stiff neck, you should avoid the following points when possible:

  • To long periods of time Sitting,
  • heavy or incorrect Lifting and Carrying of loads,
  • sitting in a draught,
  • too much Stress,
  • emotional problems.


In the case of the possible triggers for a stiff neck functional or mechanical ailments and organic causes are, first, to distinguish. In the case of the functional causes muscle pain play, such as neck tension, a prominent role. They are especially common cause for neck stiffness. You recurring improper loading, a so-called muscular imbalances are usually based on. Work on the Computer, but also Assembly-line production are referred to here as the appropriate risk factors.

Failed load

The repetitive strain of certain muscles result is that these harden with time and, practically in a permanent state of contraction remain. Also their players are subjected to the constant train more and more and begin to harden under the circumstances. Normal movement can only be in considerable pain or would not run at all. The tight muscles press on the surrounding connective tissue structures (fascia), blood vessels and nerves, which can bring more discomfort. People are often suffer from the already mentioned sensory disturbances, as well as a fierce headache at the back of the head.


The stiff neck can also go to functional impairments, or diseases of the cervical spine. Here, for example, osteoarthritis of the Cervical spine or head is to call joints. This wear and tear disease leads to damage of the joint structures and mobility limitations. Accompanying the neck pain, head pain can also occur behind the head and pain in the shoulders and arms. The same applies to a herniated disc in the cervical spine. This rather rare Form of a herniated disc is also associated often with massive back pain. Also paralysis in the Arm can go back on a herniated disc of the cervical spine. Such degenerative changes and wear are combined appearances under the concept of cervical spondylosis (Cervical spine syndrome).

Diseases as a cause

As a special Form of a stiff neck, the so-called neck stiffness, is the call of idealism. This describes a tense full neck stiffness in the case of certain diseases, such as, for example, an inflammation of the brain (Meningitis) and skin. Accompanying symptoms such as Nausea and vomiting, headache, high fever , dizziness, circulatory weakness and disturbances of consciousness up to unconsciousness are here to observe. The Meningismus may also go to a blood poisoning (Sepsis), acute sunstroke, a so-called venous sinus thrombosis, or a tumor of the meninges.

Psyche as the cause

In addition to the functional and organic causes, which can lead to a stiff neck, play, often, mental stress at the appeal of the image, a role. So, it is assumed that in some patients, extreme Stress, Burnout (burnout) and depression in tension in the neck muscles, and a correspondingly increased susceptibility to a stiff neck, can manifest.


On the basis of a thorough medical history to the beginning of the investigation of the possible causes of the discomfort can often travelled significantly narrow. A physical examination, with Palpation (Palpation) and tapping the neck area, allows further conclusions to be drawn on the cause of the neck stiffness. A herniated disc or osteoarthritis of the neck vertebrae to determine, in case of doubt, however, imaging procedures such as x-rays, ultrasound, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging. This can also be evidence of a possibly present the brain of the skin to deliver anti-inflammatory. A Meningismus can also be in the rule, on the basis of certain movement tests to determine (a positive Brudzinski, Kernig and Lasègue sign). Blood tests can also serve for the detection and determination (viral or bacterial) Meningitis, under the circumstances here, however, the removal of a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (cerebrospinal fluid) for the Diagnosis to be necessary. May be present in the bloodstream image based on the blood relatively easy to identify.

Treatment options

In the case of the functional or mechanical causes of a stiff neck, a therapy on the Basis of medical massages, physiotherapy and, possibly, pain-relieving drugs is provided for in the rule. Under certain circumstances the injection of local anesthetics into consideration. In the case of a herniated disc, the above-mentioned treatment options, but sometimes no success and there is a surgery remains in doubt, the last chance for a successful therapy.

In the case of a Meningismus, or the treatment of its causes, a drug therapy is usually in the foreground. So, for example, bacterial brain skin inflammation, and blood poisoning is usually treated with high-dose antibiotics. In the case of a sinus thrombosis, the administration of anticoagulant and blood thinning drugs. A viral-related Meningitis, however, can, in the absence of effective drugs, medication-hardly or not at all treat. The stiff neck is a tumor of the meninges, are limited in the treatment options also significantly and at the end of radiation and/or chemotherapy until today the only ways of therapy.

Natural healing for a stiff neck

Although naturopathy has in order to oppose the causes of Meningismus is usually little, but the functional or mechanical causes of a stiff neck, it offers quite a promising treatment options. So the acupuncture as a method of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) includes, for example, in many cases, to the “normal” treatment catalog against a stiff neck. Manual procedures, such as, for example, osteopathy, chiropractic, and Rolfing, are now often part of the treatment of functional complaints in the neck area. Under this method, the voltage distribution, and stability of the organism to a particular role, which is why accompanying impairments, such as back pain, hip pain or chest pain, in diagnosis and treatment have to be taken into account.

To free the neck muscles may be present from Distortion, is used in naturopathy, sometimes, to the so-called progressive muscle relaxation, which is expected to reach in addition to the loosening of the muscles also has a positive effect on the Psyche. This is particularly appropriate if there is a connection of neck stiffness, is assumed to be mental stress. Here, you can also make the Learning of relaxation techniques (autogenic Training) as a contribution to coping with stress and in this way, the risk of a stiff neck reduce.

Homeopathic remedies and schüssler salts in the context of the naturopathic treatment for the muscle tension, but also may be present in inflammatory processes in the organism. In addition, the acid-base balance is attributed to the Natural medicine has a special effect on the muscles and therefore tries to fix a potentially existing Hyperacidity.

Tips for the prevention of neck stiffness

Since the neck tense include muscles of the most common but preventable causes of neck stiffness can result in small changes in everyday life is often a big difference. The following eight tips can contribute to the prevention of a stiff neck and neck pain. However, if there is no improvement, you should immediately consult your doctor.

(fp, vb; updated on 30. January 2019)