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What causes stiff neck? 20 possible conditions

See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.


Neck Pain

The neck (cervical spine) is made up of vertebrae that extend from the skull to the upper torso. Any abnormalities, inflammation, or injury to the neck can cause pain or stiffness. In many cases, neck pain is due t...

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. It may cause headache and fever in teens and adults, irritability in babies, and trouble breathing in young children.

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Tetanus, also called Lockjaw, is a serious bacterial infection that affects the nervous system and causes muscles throughout the body to tighten.

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Whiplash occurs when a person's head moves backward and then forward very suddenly with great force. This injury is most common following a car collision.

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Sprains & Strains

Sprains and strains are injuries to the body, often resulting from physical activity. These injuries are common and can range from minor to severe, depending on the incident. Most don't require medical attention.

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Wry Neck (Torticollis)

Wry neck (Torticollis) is a tilted and twisted neck that can be congenital or result from muscle injury, swollen lymph nodes, ear infection, or other causes.

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Subarachnoid hemorrhage

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

This life-threatening hemorrhage involves bleeding between the brain and the tissues that cover it. If you experience an extreme headache, a popping sound in your head, seizures, and other symptoms, seek immediate help.

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain tissue. It's most often caused by viral infections. In some cases, bacterial infections can cause encephalitis.

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Head Injury

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A head injury could be an injury to the brain, skull, or scalp. It can vary in severity depending on the cause. In some cases face swelling can be a sign of a head injury.

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Cervical Spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis, also known as cervical osteoarthritis or neck arthritis, is an age-related condition that affects the joints and discs in your neck.

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Infectious Mononucleosis

Infectious mononucleosis, or "mono," is a group of symptoms caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. One potential symptom is a pink rash that looks like the measles.

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Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an infectious condition transmitted via tick bite. A "bull's eye" rash at the site of the bite is an early symptom of this disease.

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Tuberculosis (TB) is a highly infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs. A severe and long-lasting cough, fever, and night sweats could indicate an active TB infection.

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Histoplasmosis is a noncommunicable disease caused by certain fungal spores. Red bumps on the lower legs are one sign of this condition.

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West Nile Virus Infection (West Nile Fever)

Spread by mosquitos, West Nile virus symptoms can vary in severity. Diarrhea and abdominal pain usually appears within two weeks of infection.

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Skull Fractures

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A skull fracture is any break in the cranial bone, or the skull. It can result in bleeding, bruising, pain, and swelling. Less severe symptoms include headache, nausea, confusion, and blurred vision.

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Cryptococcal Meningitis

Meningitis is an infection and inflammation of the meninges. Your meninges are the membranes that cover your spinal cord and your brain. Meningitis can be caused by many different germs, including bacteria, fungi, an...

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Syphilitic Meningitis

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Left untreated, it can lead to meningitis. This is an infection of the layers of tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. Syphilitic meningitis is also calle...

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Brain Abscess

A brain abscess forms when fungi, viruses, or bacteria reach your brain through a wound in your head or an infection somewhere else in your body.

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Meningeal Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious airborne disease that typically affects the lungs. TB is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. If a TB infection is not treated promptly, the bacterium can trave...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.