The connection between strep throat and a stiff neck can depend on other symptoms and the location of the neck stiffness. Some stiffness in the front of the neck can occur with a throat infection because of the inflammation. If patients notice that the back of the neck is stiff and they have trouble looking down or turning the head, this could be a sign of meningitis, a very serious infection. To be on the safe side, patients may prefer to call a nursing hotline or their primary care providers if they notice neck stiffness and aren’t sure whether they should be concerned.
Strep throat is a common infection caused by Streptococcus bacteria that colonize the throat, causing symptoms like soreness, pain, and coughing. Some cases resolve on their own but if the symptoms persist for more than three to five days, the patient can get a strep test to check for the bacteria. If it is positive, antibiotics can treat the infection and resolve the inflammation.
If a patient has strep throat and a stiff neck develops, this could a result of inflammation caused by the infection. The soreness and stiffness should be located in the front of the neck, and the patient should still be able to move without extreme pain. As the bacteria die off, the stiffness and swelling should also resolve. It can help to drink plenty of fluids to promote immune health, and some patients may want to use hot or cold packs on the throat, depending on which make them feel more comfortable.
If a person has a strep throat and a stiff neck that is primarily stiff in the back, it is a cause for concern. In cases of meningitis, bacteria penetrate the meninges of the central nervous system, and can cause a severe infection that may lead to complications like coma and death. Stiffness associated with meningitis tends to be more painful and limits range of motion; people may find it extremely difficult to look down towards their bellies, for instance, because of the tightness in the neck.
Streptococcus can sometimes cause meningitis infections, and is a potential concern with strep throat and a stiff neck. While this complication is very rare, it can be a concern in cases where patients have compromised immune systems or a recent history of surgery on the central nervous system. In these instances, patients and their families should already be aware of their increased risk of infection and the appropriate steps to take to prevent complications like meningitis. For example, a cancer patient who develops a sore throat would report it to a medical provider to get treatment, rather than waiting for it to resolve.