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Stiff Neck and Headache

Madhura Pandit Apr 10, 2019
Meningitis and migraine are the most common causes of severe headache accompanied with a stiff neck. Provided here is information on the causes and treatment for the same.
Stiff neck is usually accompanied with symptoms like headache, pain in the back or shoulders and arms. It is one of the rare conditions that occurs only in serious cases. Hence, stiff neck accompanied with headache should be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.


In minor cases, a stiff neck can be caused due of sitting or sleeping in improper posture. If this continues for a longer time, it might result in severe headache. The given symptoms can be caused due to these conditions -
➡ Mild to moderate headache and stiff neck - Meningitis, tension headaches
➡ Moderate to severe headache and stiff neck - Encephalitis, migraine, sinus headache
➡ Extreme headache and stiff neck - Trigeminal neuralgia, meningitis


Injury is the most common cause of stiff neck accompanied with headache observed in people. A sudden concussion or a blow to the head due to fall or accident can lead to this condition. Sometimes, one may also other symptoms like unconsciousness, burning or tingling in ears, etc.

Bacterial Meningitis

Meningitis is the inflammation of the meninges or the membrane that envelops the brain. As the name suggests, bacterial meningitis is caused due to bacteria that affect the upper respiratory tract first, and then invade the meninges of the brain.
Bacterial meningitis is quite rare as compared to the other types of meningitis. Stiff neck, headache, high fever, confusion, etc. are the symptoms of bacterial meningitis.

Viral Meningitis

Viral meningitis is caused due to a virus known as enteroviruses. This is fairly common condition and also much milder in nature as compared to bacterial meningitis.
Viral meningitis is also one of the leading causes of stiff neck followed by headache in children. The virus causing meningitis spreads easily and quickly in unhygienic areas. Muscle spasms, fever, headache, sore throat, behavioral changes, stiff neck are symptoms of viral meningitis.


One of the lesser known causes of headache followed by stiffening of the neck and arms is stress. Stress is commonly found in people of all age groups today. Tension headache, specially, caused due to contraction of muscles in the neck give rise to stiffness in neck. Apart from stress, migraine headache can also cause stiff neck.

Treatment and Home Remedies

If any of these symptoms are observed; or you experience pain in neck and head that lasts a long time, you should consult the doctor immediately. It is essential to have the underlying causes of this symptom diagnosed properly in order to have an effective stiff neck treatment. The doctor will make use of X-ray or MRI in order to diagnose the condition.
Stiff neck caused due to injury is detected and can be diagnosed very quickly. Bacterial meningitis is detected with the help of a sample of the spinal fluid. This disease can be treated with the help of antibiotics.
However, it is essential to get the condition diagnosed and treated at an early stage. There is no treatment for viral meningitis as the condition gets cured in itself with the help of antibodies created by the immune system. But, the doctor may prescribe medications for alleviating other symptoms like fever, sore throat, etc.
➡ If looking for home remedies, note that neck massage and stretching can help treat these symptoms, if caused due to minor conditions.

➡ You can lightly massage your neck and even do gentle neck stretches. But, do not overdo or it can result in sprain.
➡ On the other hand, using cold therapy, i.e., ice packs can also relieve inflammation and pain in the neck.

➡ Stress management techniques should be followed for preventing headache caused due to stress.
If the symptoms persist even after following these remedies, you should look for quick medical help. Most of the mentioned causes can be cured if timely and proper treatment is undertaken.
Disclaimer: This is meant for information purposes only, and should not be substituted for doctor's advice and medical treatment.