What Causes a Stiff Neck on One Side?

Your neck is the body part responsible for supporting your head. It consists of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments to give movement in several directions. We tend to take the neck for granted because it is always working in the background, protecting our spinal cord with vertebrae and discs. Unfortunately, many of us don't dedicate enough care to our necks, leading to injuries, strains, and stiffness.

When your neck is strained, overused, or injured, it can become stiff and painful. Losing mobility in your neck is challenging, especially when combined with soreness and aching. While you should always pay attention to any pain in your body, a stiff neck doesn't get treated with much priority. People tend to let the stiff neck pain work itself out, which may sometimes go away on its own.

If the stiffness becomes uncomfortable, you should seek professional help. A chiropractor has experience in treating neck stiffness and can help relieve the pain that you are experiencing. The chiropractor can also advise you on lifestyle changes and gentle exercises to help your neck recover.

What causes a stiff neck? There are several aggravators for neck stiffness, which may affect one side or the other. Here are some of the leading stiff neck causes and symptoms:

1. Strained muscles may cause a stiff neck on one side.

Strained muscles may cause a stiff neck on one side

When you put your neck muscles under stress, you can develop pain. Many people spend several hours a day hunched over their computers or staring at their phones. This bad posture can put your neck in an unnatural position, impacting your neck, shoulders, and spine. Some jobs or hobbies may also restrict your head movements, which weaken the muscles and cause stiffness to occur.

Even a poor sleeping position may cause a stiff neck on one side. Too many pillows propping up your head or a soft mattress can bring your head and neck out of alignment when laying down. You can treat your neck strain by improving your sleeping position. You can also apply ice to bring swelling and inflammation down.

2. Stress may worsen stiff neck symptoms.

Stress may worsen stiff neck symptoms

In today's busy life, we all experience stress. Stress is an emotional tension that can affect our physical bodies in various ways. Along with headaches and gradual fatigue, people may develop neck stiffness as their bodies tense up.

Finding ways to relieve that emotional anxiety will ease the pain from a stiff neck. Exercise is a good remedy for stress and your muscles. Plus, you can target your neck with some light and gentle stretching. Massage therapy is another excellent practice that soothes the body. You may also be interested in meditation, which calms the mind effectively.

3. Whiplash can cause a stiff neck on one side.

Whiplash can cause a stiff neck on one side

Whiplash describes an injury that affects the neck, causing it to move back and forth rapidly. If you incurred a sports injury or were involved in a motor accident, you likely experienced whiplash. The ligaments and muscles in the neck are strained because of overextension and become inflamed. As a result, painful stiff neck symptoms usually follow a whiplash injury.

Based on your medical consultation, you may need pain medication to treat the consequences of whiplash. For more severe injuries, stabilization collars can help to restrict the movement of your neck as it heals. In milder cases, you can use ice and heat treatments to alleviate the stiff neck symptoms.

4. Arthritis may cause stiff neck and shoulder pain.

Arthritis may cause stiff neck and shoulder pain

As we age, our bodies wear down. The discs and joints in the neck start to degenerate over time, and we can develop cervical spondylosis or arthritis in the neck. Arthritis usually causes neck stiffness and pain that can come in waves, aggravated by strenuous physical activities.

In more significant cases of arthritis, even sitting or driving for long periods will make the stiff neck worse. You can also develop headaches, balance problems, and numbness in your hands or arms. Medication may help alleviate the pain, but physiotherapy or massage therapy can correct your posture in the long term.

5. Meningitis can cause stiff neck symptoms.

Meningitis can cause stiff neck symptoms

Sometimes, a stiff neck can be the symptom of a serious illness. Meningitis is inflammation of the fluid and membrane around your brain and spinal cord. The most common cause of meningitis is a viral infection. The condition can range from mild to very serious. Mild cases can improve on their own, while more severe instances may require antibiotics.

The symptoms of meningitis include headaches, fever, and neck stiffness. If flu-like symptoms accompany your stiff neck, you may want to consult a doctor for further diagnosis. Getting early treatment can prevent more severe complications.

6. A pinched nerve may cause a stiff neck on one side.

A pinched nerve may cause a stiff neck on one side

Your nerves are messengers of information from your brain, down your spinal cord, and throughout your body. The vertebrae protect the nerves in your neck, which deteriorate due to ageing and injury. When our discs become herniated, they start to bulge, stiffen, and collapse, allowing the vertebrae to get closer together. The body responds by creating more bone, developing bone spurs that stiffen the spine and pinch the nerve root.

The radiating pain can affect other body parts, including the shoulders, back, arms and hands. While this pain may go away over time, it can become chronic and possibly damage the nerve in the long term. Before the condition gets any worse, contact your chiropractor for a professional pain relief treatment plan.

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