Stiff neck


A stiff neck can be caused by severe neck tension.

A "stiff neck" is also known as acute torticollis or acute torticollis designated. Neck pain, Restrictions in movement of the cervical spine and Pain in the shoulders and Poor are often associated with a stiff neck. The complaints often cause a Relieving posture ingested, the neck is kept calm and not moved if possible, as every small movement becomes agonizing through pain. That is a Vicious circleas this will further worsen the stiff neck. In many cases they are Exercise and warmth the best treatment against a stiff neck or neck.

The main cause of a stiff neck and the pain associated with it are common Posture problems and Overworked muscles in the back, shoulder and neck area. Sitting or lying incorrectly, especially in connection with incorrect or insufficient movement, leads to a stiff neck. The muscles shorten and harden through incorrect loading or overloading. Usually this leads to pain, a relieving posture is adopted, which further exacerbates the symptoms and can lead to a stiff neck. Often also caused first Cold or draft In connection with the tense muscles, the acute condition of a stiff neck, for example from driving in an open car or sleeping with the window open on a cool night.

The Cervical spine occupies a special place in the human movement system because it is extremely flexible and carries the relatively heavy head. Countless annoy, lots Muscles and the seven Cervical vertebrae have to work together perfectly; too much movement or overload can lead to pain and consequential damage. So it is not surprising that around 70 percent of all pain complaints are localized in the back area, and one in three reports complaints particularly in the neck and shoulder area.

In some cases you can also Signs of wear of the movement system like Damage to the intervertebral discs and Vertebral bodies, Calcifications of ligaments, a Herniated disc on the neck or Wear of the small vertebral joints (Facet joint arthrosis) lead to a stiff neck. On the other hand, a stiff neck is very rarely caused by a serious underlying disease such as rheumatic diseases, Infections in the head and neck area or some tumor- and Bone disease. Depending on the cause, there are other complaints in addition to the stiff neck, such as fever, Feeling of instability of the cervical spine, limited mobility of the head, pain in other parts of the body, difficulty swallowing and others.

Also a few neurological disease patterns can lead to a stiff neck. The so-called cervical dystonia denotes for example a "Wrong tension"of overactive neck and neck muscles, which can lead to involuntarily triggered and unusual head positions.

As a rule, the symptoms of a stiff neck usually go away as quickly as they came. The complaints usually last only a day or two on. However, since there are so many causes of a stiff neck, you should focus on that Symptoms Care must be taken to distinguish between harmless tension and, in rare cases, life-threatening illness.

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The Symptoms with a stiff neck are with one Lumbago comparable in the back. Sudden onset of pain and restricted mobility in the neck are the main symptoms of this common clinical picture. These ailments are mainly caused by tight muscles or (very rarely) by one slight herniated disc caused.

If additionally other symptoms In addition, a more serious cause of the stiff neck should be considered. For example, can fever, Pain all along the spine, a headache or a general feeling of illness on a Meningitis (meningitis) indicate. This life-threatening disease can, for example, after a Tick ​​bite or through aggressive cold pathogens caused. If such symptoms occur in connection with a stiff neck and a tick bite may already have been detected, a doctor should be consulted immediately.

It can also lead to the discomfort of the stiffened neck too Pain in arms and hands come. Such a radiation of pain can be achieved with the help of X-rays, one Magnetic resonance imaging (Nuclear spin) or Computed Tomography (CT) to be clarified. A herniated disc in the area of ​​the cervical spine or signs of wear and tear can hide behind this.

The Cervical spine is a very mobile part of the spine and is made from seven cervical vertebrae and the associated Band washers formed that fit perfectly and have to work together. Even the smallest changes in the complicated chain of movements can lead to pain and stiffness.


The exact root cause a stiff neck cannot yet be adequately explained. It is debated whether the Muscles in the shoulder and neck area by wrong or too little movement cramp and thus be shortened.

Another theory explains the symptoms as microscopic small bleeding or tears in the muscle fiberscaused by the muscle being cold and suddenly having to move.

For various reasons it can be too Nerve irritation and Muscle aches come so that the head can only be turned or moved with pain. The stiff neck can go through lying or sitting incorrectly, by Drafts or as part of a cold arise. Common causes of a stiff neck also include stress and mental problems, because the neck muscles are unconsciously tensed, the shoulders are pulled up, the head is stretched forward and the teeth are clenched. Such a stiff neck can develop over a long period of time, which then usually presents itself very suddenly as an acute clinical picture.

The Muscles in the shoulder and neck area can through heavy lifting being overloaded or by incorrect movements dragged become. Signs of wear or degenerative changes on the small joints the cervical spine and vertebral body changes osteoporosis can also lead to a stiff neck.

Other causes can be Accidents (e.g. Whiplash), Nerve irritation due to bone changes or Disc damage, Vascular changes or Soft tissue rheumatism be.


The diagnosis of a stiff neck is mainly made by the typical symptoms. As a rule, your family doctor or an orthopedic surgeon is the right contact. Doctors from other specialties (e.g. neurology, internist, rheumatologist) should be consulted.

A physical exam in conjunction with the medical history (anamnese) usually provides information about the extent of the symptoms. Above all, the physique, the mobility of the head, the muscle strength and the pain in the shoulder and neck area are examined.

The cause of the stiff neck must be determined in order to initiate appropriate therapy. In some cases, for example after an accident, with chronic pain that worsens at night or when there are doubts about the harmlessness of the symptoms, imaging procedures such as X-ray examinations or magnetic resonance tomography can facilitate the diagnosis.

However, the possibly visible signs of wear on the spine are not always the cause of the neck pain. There may also be examinations of the vessels in the neck (Duplex sonography), Blood tests or examinations by a neurologist or psychiatrist.


A professional massage can relieve tension in the neck and neck area and thus improve the situation.

The first aid with a stiff neck is always warmth. Whether with a hot water bottle, soft red light or a warm grain pillow, the painful and stiff neck should first be properly warmed up. The heat increases blood circulation in the damaged muscles and thus promotes the Healing process minor injuries. In addition, the Relieved painwhich is very important to prevent the pain-related relieving posture, which usually aggravates rather than improves the symptoms of the stiff neck. A pleasantly warm bath can also help relax the muscles and often has the additional positive effect that stress which is also a common cause of a stiff neck.

Basically, the stiff neck should only moved carefully and not jerkily become. Light movement exercises in the sense of turning the head and stretching the lateral neck muscles are also recommended. Bed rest, on the other hand, is not recommended, it rather increases the duration of the pain. As much as possible Exercise is important, Daily life should be continued as much as possible, only heavy physical work and jerky movements should be avoided. Also shouldn't try to yourself "straighten"Or moving your head back and forth in a circular motion. This often worsens the symptoms.

Also can gentle massages loosen the muscles and promote blood circulation. A professional masseur or physiotherapist can usually help relieve severe pain. In stubborn cases, can be relaxing and anti-inflammatory Medication for the stiff neck, as well as physical therapy and heat applications, if the symptoms do not go away on their own within a few days. Medicines can also be in the Injected into muscles or irritated joints become.

After a simple whiplash or to immobilize certain types of Instabilities in the cervical spine (e.g. in the case of inflammation of the vertebrae) can be used to immobilize and stabilize a Neck tie (Cervical brace) make sense. Other procedures like acupuncture can also provide relief in some cases.

Chiropractic or manual therapy is rarely used on the cervical spine, as it can lead to serious complications, including a stroke.


A stiff neck can do well at first warmth and easy movement be treated. The symptoms usually disappear afterwards a day or two again. If no improvement is noticeable despite heat treatment, a Physiotherapist or masseur to be visited. The specialists can do the neck- and Neck muscles edit that Relieve joints and Misalignments correct.

If the stiff neck appears for the first time or if there is still no improvement after one or two treatments with a physiotherapist or masseur, one should definitely do it doctor to be visited. So can Diagnosis initiated, which may uncover rare causes of the symptoms and appropriate therapy started.

In the very rare cases where a serious illness behind the stiff neck, the recovery time will depend on when treatment started and what the cause of the discomfort was.


Often a stiff neck develops anyway underdeveloped or weak muscles. To prevent a stiff neck, you should definitely use one Muscle training be performed. Regular physical training is always recommended; it is also the simplest and most sensible method to reduce pain and discomfort in the neck and neck area or to make them disappear completely.

Daily exercise in the form of walks, jogging, to go biking or swim also helps to strengthen the body that Defense system to activate that Stability of the bones to increase and the Musculature to strengthen. Even simple everyday things can increase the amount of movement and prevent a stiff neck. Instead of the elevator, the stairs can be used and more often you can do without the car and walk or ride a bike.

You can also take preventive action against drafts. As a precaution, the neck can be treated with a Cloth or scarf protected and warmedwhen staying in air-conditioned rooms or driving in an open car. Heat applications or blood circulation-promoting ointments or Massages can already at slight muscle tension can be used to prevent stiff necks.

It may be necessary that the posture (under the guidance of a physiotherapist) is corrected and Relaxation techniques for the neck muscles are trained.

Computer screens should be set below eye level so that the neck muscles can be relaxed when working on the computer.