Duration Of Current Neck Stiffness

What Causes Neck Stiffness?

Neck stiffness can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'worrying' to 'critical'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose neck stiffness, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "neck stiffness" as a symptom.  Here are six possibilities:
  • Encephalitis
  • A Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Meningitis
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Cervical Arthritis

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
very dry eyes
pain in cold/cool/damp weather
significant neck pain
fatigue after slight exertion
low lymphocyte count
slight neck pain
normal ANA levels
Heberden's nodes
morning stiffness for 45-120 minutes
pain between shoulder blades
daily morning stiffness
slight stiff neck
... and so on

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of neck stiffness:
Cause Probability Status
A Subarachnoid Hemorrhage 90% Confirm
Rheumatoid Arthritis 73% Possible
Meningitis 24% Unlikely
Ankylosing Spondylitis 5% Ruled out
Cervical Arthritis 1% Ruled out
Encephalitis 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate neck pain/stiffness, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
If you have a stiff neck, how long has it been this way?
Possible responses:
→ Don't know / not applicable
→ Over 1 year
→ 1 to 12 months
→ 1 week to 1 month
→ Less than 1 week
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate either long term neck stiffness or recent onset neck stiffness, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
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