Stiff neck, causes and tips

Everyone knows the phenomenon of the stiff neck. Sometimes it just happens after a working day or a long trip. The medical term for stiff neck is torticollis. Turning or bending the head is painful and can prevent you from moving your head. Your neck muscles are completely cramped. In some cases your head may be in a crooked or abnormal position. The muscle pain in the neck usually goes away on its own after a few weeks. We use the neck with great regularity every day. However, it is a very complex body part. It consists of muscles, joints, intervertebral vertebrae and the spinal cord. Normally, exercise is not a problem, but as soon as something goes wrong, we notice it immediately. Pain arises and we experience (serious) movement problems. The neck pain can radiate to the back and shoulder. In addition, it may be accompanied by headaches.

The causes:

  • A wrong (sleeping) position
  • Cold on your muscles, draft
  • Making an unexpected move
  • Flu
  • Grinding your teeth
  • Muscle strain
  • Prolonged stress
  • Too much strain on the neck muscles
  • Meningitis
  • A pinched nerve
  • Inflammation
  • Arthrosis
  • Whiplash


Serious causes

In some cases, the cause of a stiff neck is serious. There are symptoms that should set alarm bells ringing for you.

These symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Increasing pain
  • Chestpain
  • Complaints after an accident
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Muddles

If the stiff neck is the result of a minor accident, do not take any chances and see a doctor. Meningitis is also a serious cause of a stiff neck. When you can no longer put your chin on your chest, or your arms and legs pull, that is a serious symptom. The condition is also called neck cramp. It mainly occurs in children. It is important to consult a doctor immediately with this symptom, especially in children. Osteoarthritis can also be a cause of stiffness in the neck. Osteoarthritis is joint wear and tear. The cervical vertebrae cause discomfort and pain because the cartilage between the vertebrae wears out or even disappears. Whiplash also often leads to serious neck complaints. The unexpected blow to the muscles often results in a stiff neck. In exceptional cases, a stiff neck is caused by a tumor, bruise or fracture.

Mostly innocent

Fortunately, the vast majority of cases of a stiff neck are harmless. The general practitioner regularly sees patients with this condition in his practice. This usually recommends warmth, exercise and patience. The complaints usually disappear after a maximum of a few weeks.


There are also tools that can help you get rid of the ailment. A few resources at a glance:

  • A warm shower or a warm bath
  • Wrap a warm cloth around the neck
  • Painkillers with Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Voltaren)
  • A spreadable warming muscle and joint gel
  • Remedies with the arnica extract


Natural remedy: Arnica montana

The Arnica montana is a plant known for its beneficial effect on, among other things, painful muscles, stiffness and strains. It is not only analgesic, but also anti-inflammatory. There are remedies available with Arnica extract. Product containing Arnica extract is freely available at drugstores, pharmacies and health food stores.

Exercises against stiff neck

An incorrect working posture is an important cause of a stiff neck. To prevent stiffness you can do the following exercises.

Exercise 1: Rotate your neck vertically

Let your arms hang relaxed at your sides. Turn your head to the right and try to touch your right shoulder with your right cheek. Hold this for five seconds. Do this again on the left side.

Exercise 2: Rotate your neck horizontally

Let your arms hang relaxed at your sides. Move your head to the right front. Hold this for five seconds and then bring your head to the back left. Repeat this, but in the other direction.

Exercise 3: Seated stretching neck and shoulder muscles

Assume a sitting position and fold your hands. Extend the arms upward with open palms facing upwards. Repeat this, also by stretching the arms forward.

Exercise 4: Standing stretching neck and shoulder muscles

Stand up straight and pull your left arm behind your back with your right hand. Gently bend your head to the right side. Count to ten and then repeat on the other side. Finish this by alternately holding the arms up and down. When you raise your right arm, your left arm should point down and vice versa. Stretch your fingers.


Do you suffer from a stiff neck? Then go to the doctor.


Only in exceptionally persistent cases does surgery provide relief. This is only possible with a medical referral from a doctor. Neck operations usually give good results. After this medical intervention, the cause and complaints usually disappear.

Scroll to Top