Degree Of Current Neck Stiffness

What Causes Stiff Neck?

Stiff neck 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 stiff neck, 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 "stiff neck" as a symptom.  Here are eight possibilities (more below):
  • Meningitis
  • Stress
  • Cervical Arthritis
  • Possible Urgent Medical Need
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Encephalitis
  • A Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
  • Juvenile Rheumatoid 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:
minor joint pain/swelling/stiffness
physical abuse during childhood
slight neck pain
bowel movement changes
severe left hypochondriac pain
heart racing/palpitations
frequent bizarre dreams
rheumatoid arthritis
severe neck pain
pain in cold/cool/damp weather
paying great attention to detail
long term neck stiffness
... and more than 70 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of stiff neck:
Cause Probability Status
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis 96% Confirm
Cervical Arthritis 28% Unlikely
Stress 19% Unlikely
Possible Urgent Medical Need 0% Ruled out
Encephalitis 0% Ruled out
A Subarachnoid Hemorrhage 0% Ruled out
Meningitis 0% Ruled out
Rheumatoid Arthritis 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 (hard-to-turn) neck, how far can you turn your neck until the pain or resistance becomes too much?
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ My neck is not stiff
→ I can move my neck quite well, but not all the way
→ I can move my neck a little, with difficulty
→ I can not move my neck
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate no neck stiffness, slight stiff neck, stiff neck or severe stiff neck, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
A Potentially Urgent Medical Need

A very stiff neck can indicate a potentially life-threatening condition, such as meningitis, encephalitis or a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Stress

Stress can cause the neck muscles to tighten and become stiff.

Concerned or curious about your health?  Try The Analyst™
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