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A stiff neck is characterized by pain, soreness, and discomfort while attempting to turn the head in any direction.
A common cause for stiff neck is a strained muscle in the back or side of the neck, which connects the neck’s cervical spine with the shoulder. Neck strains usually occur when holding an unsupported posture for a long time, such as while slouching and viewing a computer, continuously looking downward at a mobile phone, cradling a phone between the neck and shoulder, or sleeping in an awkward position.
When a neck muscle is strained, the muscle fibers and tendons may be stretched beyond their normal limits or torn, causing pain, tenderness, and difficulty moving the neck. If a large muscle, such as the trapezius is strained, pain from the neck may radiate into the shoulder and over the shoulder blade and upper back. As the body tries to stabilize the injury, painful muscle spasms may also be experienced.
A stiff neck due to a muscle strain injury can significantly limit motion in the neck and may recur if the cause is not addressed. This condition typically gets better with self-care in a few days.