Infections That Cause Neck Pain


Neck pain is certainly uncomfortable, regardless of the cause. Unfortunately, most people don't realize that neck pain can be caused by conditions other than those that affect the muscles. Neck pain can be a symptom of a serious medical condition or infection and, if that underlying disorder is not properly diagnosed and treated, can lead to significant complications, even death.


  • Lymphadenitis is a word used to describe any infection that attacks the lymph nodes. Diseases that attack the lymph channels are referred to as lymphagitis. Lymphadenitis is usually caused by a virus or bacteria and may or may not be a symptom of another underlying disease such as measles, bubonic plague, Hodgkin's lymphoma, sarcoidosis and AIDS.

    Lymphadenitis causes sweling of the lymph nodes, many of which are located in the neck. Individual suffering from this condition will experience moderate neck pain until the infection begins to clear and the swelling in the lymph nodes goes down.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks itself, specifically at all of the joints in the body that contain synovial fluid. All of the joints of the neck contain synovial fluid, and the concern is that the swelling caused by a rheumatoid flareup will put excessive pressure on the spinal cord and brain stem.

    If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you'll usually feel pain or stiffness in the neck during a flareup due to swelling in the joints. As your disease progresses and the synovial joints are destroyed, you'll feel pain on a more consistent basis as the vertebrae in your neck become unstable.


  • Carotidynia is a medical condition that causes the carotid arteries and the branches flowing to and from them to dilate or swell. In many cases, this swelling is caused by a viral infection, but it can also be caused by arterioscleroris or have no identifiable cause.

    If you have carotidynia, you will feel tenderness near the carotid artery (near the area on your head where you touch your temples), headaches and significant neck pain. The condition, also sometimes referred to as a lower-half headache or facial migraine, can cause pain not only in the neck but in the lower jaw as well.


  • Along with fatigue, a stiff or sore neck is a very common symptom of the viral infection known as mononucleosis. If you have mononucleosis, you will find that the lymph nodes in your neck are swollen and enlarged. Because of this swelling, your neck will become sore and difficult to move. The pain will go away as the infection begins to clear, but, in many cases, it takes approximately six to eight weeks to recover completely.


  • Bacterial meningitis is a serious medical condition infecting the meninges covering the brain and spinal cord. The symptoms of meningitis are often confused with that of the flu, including fevers, headaches, muscle fatigue, chills, nausea and vomiting.

    One of the most notable symptoms, however, is a stiff neck. Patients with meningitis have so much pain and stiffness that they can not move the neck from side to side and, in many cases, can not even lower their chins towards their chests. You should seek the attention of a health care provider immediately if you have a stiff, painful neck, especially in conjunction with any of the above symptoms.

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