What are the Most Common Causes of Neck Pain and Stiffness?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 June 2018
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Neck pain and stiffness often go hand in hand among athletes as well as office workers. Injuries to the muscles in the neck can lead to neck pain and stiffness, as can poor posture, tired muscles, and even everyday stress. Other causes of neck pain and stiffness are more serious and need to be treated by a doctor; such conditions may include arthritis, a herniated disc in the spine, spinal deformities, or spinal fractures and breaks. If pain persists for more than a few days, a more serious condition may be present and a doctor should be consulted.

During long days at the office, the neck is often set in an uncomfortable position as the eyes look toward a computer screen. The longer the muscles of the neck support the head in such a position, the more quickly those muscles will tire. When muscles tire, they tend to tighten, which can cause neck pain and stiffness. To counteract such a condition, one might consider purchasing an ergonomic chair that supports the lumbar spine as well as the neck. With the neck, spine, and shoulders in a more natural position, the muscles throughout the back and neck are less likely to tire quickly, meaning they will not tense up.


Any type of trauma can cause neck pain and stiffness, and such pain is common after car accidents or participating in sporting events. Impacts can cause spinal compression, which can lead to a host of problems in the spine. Compression may lead to a pinched nerve, or it can lead to a herniated disc in the spine, in which the gel-like fluid between discs squeezes out into the spinal column. The bones can then rub against each other, or the fluid itself can cause pain in the spine and neck. Such injuries often necessitate physical rehabilitation, and in some severe cases, surgery may be necessary. A doctor may also prescribe painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication.

Arthritis is perhaps one of the most common causes of neck pain and stiffness. As the ligaments between joints wear down, the bones of that joint are likely to rub against each other, causing moderate to severe pain in the neck or any other joint in the body. Arthritis becomes more common as a person ages, and while a full recovery is often not possible, arthritis can be treated with a combination of medication, stretching, and exercise.



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