A stiff neck is an extremely common symptom, which may be caused by a variety of neck conditions. The symptoms of neck pain and stiffness, which decreases neck movement, can be secondary to several problems, such as a disc prolapse (slipped disc), a facet joint problem, an diagnosed cervical fracture (broken neck), or another neck problem. The stiff neck is usually caused by muscle spasm in the neck muscles.
Muscle spasm in the neck, leading to a stiff neck, is usually a protective mechanism which is secondary to an underlying neck problem. This is referred to as ‘Acute Torticollis’ or ‘Wry Neck’.
In most cases of Wry Neck, the person wakes up with the painful stiff neck, although occasionally the neck may become stuck following a sudden movement. The head will be held to one side and the neck is too painful to move. Attempting to move the neck will usually make the neck pain worse. In some cases, the pain will radiate up the neck or down to the shoulder area. There may be painful spasm in the neck muscles.