ZocdocAnswersIs my stiff neck a sign that I have encephalitis?

Question

Is my stiff neck a sign that I have encephalitis?

I've had a stiff neck for around two months and my friend told me that this is one of the symptoms of encephalitis, because her brother had it. Should I get tested for it? Is it possible to get encephalitis testing done or do you have to wait until you have more symptoms?

Answer

Encephalitis is a brain infection, usually caused by a virus. It is a quite serious condition and, in addition to stiffness in the neck, there is usually fever, confusion, lethargy, and other serious symptoms. It is also an acute condition, which develops quickly and suddenly. In other words, there is no chance that stiffness in your neck for over two months could be from encephalitis. If you had encephalitis, you would be extremely ill. It is much more likely that what you have going on in your neck is a strain injury or a muscle spasm. For example, inflammation and stiffness in the muscles that run up and down both sides of the neck, called the paraspinal muscles, is very common, usually provoked by poor posture or repetitive strain from tasks such as staring at a computer screen all day. The pain and stiffness can be relieved in the short term by using ice and anti inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. However, preventing recurring stiffness requires paying attention to your posture and work environment. Please also talk to your primary care doctor, who can give you some stretching exercises and may also recommend a few sessions of physical therapy.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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