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What Causes a Stiff Neck and Dizziness?

By Marlene de Wilde
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Neck problems are a common source of pain, and a stiff neck and dizziness are a combination that should not be ignored, especially if the symptoms last for a time. Any strain on the neck muscle also affects the muscles in the head, which is why stiff neck is often accompanied by dizziness or headaches. The causes of these symptoms range from sleeping in the wrong position or a pillow that is too soft, to a nervous disorder, such as multiple sclerosis, or tumors. The symptoms, when presented together, may also be warning signs of a heart attack.

Blood pressure problems, poor circulation due to heart disease or blocked arteries, and a migraine can also cause these symptoms. If they are accompanied by other symptoms, such as high fever, stupor, nausea, and vomiting, then the cause may be due to mosquito-carried diseases such as the West Nile Virus. Lyme disease, which is carried by ticks, causes fever, headache, a stiff neck, and dizziness. These are serious conditions that can be fatal if untreated.

A stiff neck and dizziness when looking up or turning the head accompanied by blackouts is usually a sign that the vertebral arteries are being pinched. The vertebral arteries are the major arteries of the neck and contribute to the supply of blood to the brain. Any manipulation of the spinal or neck vertebrae may tear the arteries in this area, which in turn can lead to a stroke. Neck injuries of this kind may be caused by accidents, sports injuries, or chiropractic adjustments gone wrong.

Light-headedness and discomfort in the neck are among the warning signs of a heart attack. If they are accompanied by pressure; pain or a feeling of fullness in the chest; discomfort in the jaw, arms, and back; shortness of breath and nausea, then medical help should be sought as soon as possible. These are warning signs that may come and go or develop slowly, but the sooner action is taken, the better the chance that a potential heart attack can be avoided or, at least, not be fatal.

Many different conditions and diseases may cause neck problems and dizziness. On their own, they may be treated by a cold or hot compress and an over-the-counter pain reliever. The cause may also be a much more serious one and require more intensive treatment, however, and medical advice should be sought if the symptoms are recurring or on-going or if there is the slightest concern that the cause is more than a muscle strain.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon972424 — On Oct 03, 2014

Dizziness, nausea and foggy head may be all caused from a stiff neck. See a trigger point massage therapist.

By anon945559 — On Apr 13, 2014

anon351503 (Post 9): You should get it checked out. All sorts of things can be a result of a big knock to the head. One friend of mine had a knock to the head when she was 18. Some 30 years later a growth (non-cancerous) was found in her head the size of a orange and had to be removed. It had been slowly growing since she hit her head.

But yes, migraine and memory loss can also be the result of stress.

By anon351503 — On Oct 14, 2013

I had a concussion 10 years ago, after I fell from a bicycle after being hit by a group of big guys who were playing soccer at that time.

I was unconscious and was woken up by my mother, who then brought me home instead of taking me to the hospital. After that incident, symptoms of migraine and short-term memory loss started. Is it due to the concussion or just that I am getting older and having stress at work and school? I am 21 this year.

By msiminski — On Jul 30, 2013

In November 2011, I fell about 8 feet off a ladder and hit the back of my head on a concrete goose. I ended up with a concussion and 14 staples. It loosened the crystals in my ears and I have had them aligned (strange procedure but works). But it is now a year and a half since then and I still get dizzy when I lie down at night. Recently, I think it is tied to pressure on the back of my neck. I have no idea where to go. I have seen a very good Neurologist and he found nothing. I had a terrible relapse today and am disoriented, nauseated and dizzy. Any thoughts on who I should see who can diagnose what is wrong?

By donasmrs — On May 17, 2013

@ysmina-- It could also be from high or low blood pressure. When my blood pressure falls, I get dizzy and when it rises, my neck becomes stiff.

By burcidi — On May 16, 2013

@ysmina-- It definitely can be due to the car accident. Sometimes it takes a while for neck injuries to start showing symptoms. If your sister didn't have any other injury, the car accident is probably the culprit.

She needs to see a doctor and have an X-Ray and an MRI done. She might be suffering from a neck hernia or some kind of injury to the muscles or nerves. It needs to be diagnosed and treated right away or the symptoms will worsen.

I know because I had similar symptoms for almost six months until I saw a doctor. It turned out to be a hernia. I'm pain free now after physical therapy and medications.

By ysmina — On May 16, 2013

My sister had a car accident a few months ago. A truck couldn't stop at the red light and hit her from the back. She was taken to the hospital and was absolutely fine.

Recently, she has started getting dizzy several times a day and complains that her neck is always stiff and painful.

Can this be due to the car accident?

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