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What causes stiffness and pain in neck with headache?

Answered by
Dr. Dariush Saghafi


Practicing since :1988

Answered : 1711 Questions

Posted on Tue, 5 Aug 2014 in General Health
Question: I have stiffness on the right side of my neck. when I look up i get pain in the middle right side of my neck. I also feel a heart beat in the back right of my head. I also have a headache on the right side of my head. I feel like the right side of my checks are numb. Little pain in my right jaw
Answered by Dr. Dariush Saghafi 28 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Possible neck strain with resultant headache

Detailed Answer:

Good day to you Mr. XXXXXXX My name is Dr. Saghafi and I would like to offer the following advice on your situation. First just a couple of questions:

1. Is the pain you mention in the right middle part of the neck ONLY when looking up? When did this pain in the neck actually begin?

2. Did the headache you mention come on at the same time, before, or after the neck stiffness? Do you have a history of headaches in general such as migraines, tension types, etc. and if so are you successful in treating them?

3. Do you have a fever, any symptoms of nausea, vomiting, or flu like symptoms to go along with this presentation?

In reality it is entirely possible for the headache to be a consequence of the neck stiffness or VICE VERSA. Perhaps, you'll help me decide which it's likely to be by answering my questions.

If your answer to the above questions is #3 then, please after this sentence STOP READING and go to your nearest emergency room to get seen since you may be describing the early onset of an infectious process such as a meningitis that could complicate and be contagious if not recognized and treated quickly.

But if your answer is something other than #3 then, I am going to assume the neck stiffness is the most "out front" symptom at this time and say that is the likely the origin of the problem. I believe you somehow pulled, injured, strained, or otherwise "kinked" your neck doing something.

Are you athletic and involved in sports or something of that nature? Could you have had a really unusually hard workout or gotten your neck involved when you didn't intend to do so? Please detail some activities you were doing over the past few days that could be related.

The headache therefore, would be a likely consequence of this neck strain/stiffness and would be treated secondarily.

My recommendation for you is then, is to:

1. Get an ice pack on that neck if your problem is less than 48 hrs. old and to keep icing for 15-30 minutes at a time, twice daily. Continue this process for the next 24-48 hrs. at which point you should change to either a heating pad or hot towels with the same timing. You can stop this treatment once the neck stiffness/pain subsides.

2. In the mean time you may consider taking some over the counter anti-inflammatories or analgesics as instructed on the label to help with any pain and the headaches until this resolves.

3. If you get no relief from any of what I've recommended or your symptoms progress to include nausea, vomiting, or worsening headaches that you've not had before then, please contact your physician's office right away or go to the nearest ER.

I hope you feel better quickly. Please let us know how things evolve in the next couple of days. Feel better fast!
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Raju A.T
Follow up: Dr. Dariush Saghafi 16 minutes later
It hurts when I look up and tilt my head to the left. The headache has come
And gone for the last 4 days and the neck pain started this morning. Could the headache be from anxiety? I feel the pulse in my right temple sometimes over the past few days as well.
Answered by Dr. Dariush Saghafi 33 minutes later
Brief Answer:
So headache PRECEDED neck stiffness

Detailed Answer:
Well, Mr. XXXXXXX then, I would have to say as they do in the land of OZ, "That's a Horse of a Different Color!"

So, in fact, what you're telling me is that you've had a headache for the past 4 days which throbs is on one side of the head along with some cheek numbness and jaw pain. And then, neck pain/stiffness started only today?

Therefore, you make me believe that your headache is the primary problem and the neck stiffness is as a result. You may be suffering from migraine headaches and therefore, you should be seen by a general neurologist or headache specialist to try and figure out WHY you're having these intermittent headaches.

It's definitely possible that your headache is caused by anxiety.
STRESS is the #1 trigger of all types of headaches.

So--- I would recommend the following:

1. Seek out a headache specialist or a general neurologist (most of them should be well equipped to treat these sorts of headaches)

2. Start keeping track of your headaches in the form of a diary (look online for examples of good logs you can use) along with the symptoms of neck stiffness

3. For the time being I would recommend you stick to over the counter types of medications for headache relief but not overuse them either. Follow the directions on the bottle. Make sure you're not allergic to aspirin or any other type of medication before taking it.

4. Hydrate, Hydrate, hydrate (WATER IS THE BEST).....I don't know where exactly you are but over here it's been blistering hot for the past few days. If you've been exposed at all to the heat, working outside, etc. etc. and not hydrating well then, that could be as good a reason as any to have headaches.

Good luck and let us know what happens......Hope you get better fast.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Raju A.T

The User accepted the expert's answer

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