It is very common to wake up with a stiff neck. A muscle spasm can cause a stiff neck, which usually gets better quickly with warm compresses and over-the-counter pain medicine. But if you have a stiff neck and you have other symptoms such as fever or headache, it could be something much more serious like meningitis. You need to call your doctor right away. Also call right away if you have pain, numbness, or weakness in your arms or legs or other symptoms and signs along with your stiff neck.
While the list below can be considered as a guide to educate yourself about these conditions, this is not a substitute for a diagnosis from a health care provider. There are many other medical conditions that also can be associated with your symptoms and signs. Here are a number of those from MedicineNet:
Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain. Symptoms include fever, headache, and a stiff neck. Treatment of meningitis depends upon the cause of the infection and may include antibiotics or antiviral medications.
Degenerative disc disease makes the disc more susceptible to herniation (rupture) which can lead to localized or radiating pain. The pain from degenerative disc or joint disease of the spine is usually treated conservatively with intermittent heat, rest, rehabilitative exercises and medications to relieve pain, muscle spasm and inflammation.
Muscle spasms are involuntary muscle contractions that come on suddenly and are usually quite painful. Dehydration, doing strenuous exercise in a hot environment, prolonged muscle use, and certain diseases of the nervous system may cause muscle spasms. Symptoms and signs of a muscle spasm include an acute onset of pain and a possible bulge seen or felt beneath the skin where the muscle is located. Gently stretching the muscle usually resolves a muscle spasm.
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis caused by inflammation, breakdown, and eventual loss of cartilage in the joints. Also known as degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis can be caused by aging, heredity, and injury from trauma or disease.
At MedicineNet, we believe it is important to take charge of your health through measures such as a living healthy lifestyle, practicing preventative medicine, following a nutrition plan, and getting regular exercise. Understanding your symptoms and signs and educating yourself about health conditions are also a part of living your healthiest life. The links above will provide you with more detailed information on these medical conditions to help you inform yourself about the causes and available treatments for these conditions.
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