21 answers

Stiff Neck?

****Update***** She is totally fine today. Thanks for everyone's concern. She wasn't showing any signs of being sick and her doctor thought it was just a sprained neck. She's back up and at -em this morning! Today it's momma who has a stiff neck. :) Thanks again for all the advice.*****
My 2.5 year old woke up this morning at around 4am crying that she had a headache. She fell back asleep for a few hours but when she woke up and tried to move, started crying again. She cries vigorously when she tries to move her neck. I called the on call nurse who told me to give her Tylenol and see if it improves in a few hours. Her vitals seem fine (no runny nose, no fever, eyes dilate normally). Has anyone else had a toddler strain their neck? How long does it take to fix itself? I'm using a warm compress on her neck right now but she seems to be in a lot of pain.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you to everyone who responded. I had called her doctor the morning that she woke up with it and was monitoring her very closely. She woke up today and it is much, much improved. We are just continuing to use Tylenol and warm heat and it seems to be helping.

Featured Answers

I don't mean to alarm you, but please watch her very carefully for a fever. Meningitis (which I have had), presents with a headache, stiff neck and HIGH fever. But if there is no fever, it cannot be meningitis.

2 moms found this helpful

TAKE HER TO THE DR. This is not normal, especially if she is in PAIN.

Heat could be making it worse. If it is muscle swelling, ice packs need to be used.


More Answers

I don't mean to alarm you, but please watch her very carefully for a fever. Meningitis (which I have had), presents with a headache, stiff neck and HIGH fever. But if there is no fever, it cannot be meningitis.

2 moms found this helpful

Does she have any of the other symptoms of meningitis? I don't want to scare you; she probably just slept on it wrong, but meningitis is a super super urgent illness. Check here immediately:


I would take her to be seen NOW!!!

Stiff neck can be a sign of meningitis. Better safe than sorry!

Stop the heat! use ice, the heat is only going to prolong whatever injury is going on. I am a LMT, and can speak with confidence that the heat is not going to help, but potentially make the situation worse. use ice, for 10-15mins, then test her range of motion in the neck, first have her do the movements, and then you do them, if you can move her neck but she can not then it is most likely an inflamation in the muscles, and will probably take care of itself in a matter of a couple of days with rest, ice and tylenol. good luck!

Could be tonsillitis or strep throat. Call the nurse again. Check for fever. Push fluids.

It is so terrifying!!!! Our daughter woke with the same, actually around the same age. We couldn’t move her, without screaming pain. After determining there was no high fever/other, we made sure she rested. She would not tolerate ice/hot packs so we did massage (light) and had her keep up on the fluids (water) with Tylenol/Motrin (alternating at our doctor’s suggestion) support, as needed…which really was the first 12 hours or so. The strain lasted about 3 days, lessoning each day. Our daughter was so scared of the pain, it took her some time to want to try and move her neck, but I could tell the improve by how she was sleeping and able to maneuver without crying out. We never had a repeat episode. Good luck and I hope she feels better soon.

PS. I just saw your update (after I posted...lol). I'm glad she's feeling better!!!

If the Tylenol does not correct the neck pain, I would contact a doctor (not a nurse) ASAP.

Oh, my! A stiff neck could be a sign of something more serious going on. You may just want to take her in to be on the safe side. It could be as simple as a side effect from being sick or if she has a cold, but it could also indicate other neuro things going on. I don't want to scare you, and I hope it's just related to maybe getting sick or a cold, but it's best to be safe. : )

I would take her to a kid's chiropractor or acupuncturist to relax the spasmed muscle. Marshall Street Clinic is phenomenal - up on NW Marshall. You can call them and see if they have any suggestions. www.marshallstreetclinic.com

Good luck!

I agree with Mary. Keep a close eye on her temperature. Can she touch her chin to her chest? That combined with a fever is very dangerous.

As an adult who has suffered for years from neck problems I can tell you, you should do cold not warm and not tylenol but baby advil. But be careful that it is not masking a fever. You can alternate cold and hot 10mins cold, 20 min break, 10mins warm. That usually helps a lot.

Good luck

Dear M.,
I can relate to the stress that you are feeling not knowing how to help.
I would recommend a chiropractor.
I have taken my daughter to the chiropractor since she was two weeks old and she is now 2+. One day she woke up and could not put any weight on her right leg. She would literally fall when she would try. I took her to the doctor and they claimed that she had a virus that could take up to two weeks to correct itself. I left the doctors office after 3 hours with and exam and xrays and went to our chiropractor. He adjusted her and said she probably jammed her leg. Within 2 hours she was running and playing. She was perfectly fine.

I wish you the best with helping your daughter!
God Bless- L.


Just keep an eye on her. If this keeps occuring...even if it is infrequent...please have her checked. Our son was diagnosed with Spina Bifida Occulta and still had a tethered cord. With a quick surgery and a few weeks of recoup he is even more active and healthier than ever. He use to wake often with aches. He would tip his head to the side (the doctor explained that this was to help releived the pressure). The factor that sent us to get the MRI was the birthmark on his spine that the pediatrician did not like the look of or how it was investigated at his birth by his prior pediatrician.

I hope a stiff neck is all it is...or growing pains which is possible too.

Good luck and God Bless,


As odd as it sounds, you may want to take her to a chiropractor. The guy we go to, Dr. Campbell, would occasionally check our kids (with our permission) to make sure they were aligned properly. His office is near Alderwood Mall so I'm not sure you want to travel here, but I highly recommend him.


Good luck. Is there jaw pain or a stiff jaw, too? I don't want to be an alarmist, but please check with the doctor again in case it's meningitis. A stiff neck is one of the symptoms, and it can come on really quickly. Hopefully it's nothing more than a strained neck muscle from playing too hard.

I would take her to the doctor ASAP. It might be nothing, but it might be very serious. Does she have a fever? I would tell the doctor, not just the nurse.

Glad to hear your update b/c when I read your posting I was hoping you took her straight to the doctor. As you know by now a stiff neck is a symptom of some serious illnesses such as meningitis. Thanks for the good news!

Get her to the doctor. Meningitis is serious, and that is a symptom. Better to be safe than sorry. That nurse should have referred you to a doctor or hosp. immediately. Please have her checked out. What you wrote brought that to mind right away. At least you'll know either way, and if it is, she has a better chance of survival (sorry, but if that is what she has it is deadly!); if it's something else, perhaps you'll get help in finding her some comfort. Good luck. I wish you well, and your daughter a speedy recovery. Helpless is: an ill child, and no way to make it better. Sincerely, T.

Does she also have a cold? As icky as it sounds, I've found a couple times that I've had a cold and sniffled or blown my nose that I've pulled something in my neck that took a little while to heal and was easily reirritated until the cold was over.

TAKE HER TO THE DR. This is not normal, especially if she is in PAIN.

Heat could be making it worse. If it is muscle swelling, ice packs need to be used.



I highly recommend going to a Doctor of Osteopathic medicine who specializes in cranial sacral therapy. Our family has used Dr. Cavanaugh in Capital Hill - ###-###-####. He is very gentle and aligns the spine and peripheral nerves with gentle touch and releases. My younger son usually falls asleep during his treatment. Do not see a chiropractor. They do not know what they are doing. They simply want to rope you into their come-twice-a-week-revolving door. Please call Dr. Cavananaugh. Even if you have to wait a week to see him he can make sure she has no restrictions in the neck and cranium so future headaches can be prevented.

Good luck,

She may have slept wrong on her neck I would give her a shower you get in too and maybe that will loosen it up. Also try to rub it like a mini massage.Good Luck!

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