Could Your Neck Pain Be Meningitis?

Meningitis and Neck Pain
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If you have a stiff neck, particularly if it’s the type you get when you have the flu, it could be meningitis.

Meningitis symptoms can arise and do serious damage very quickly.  In fact,once symptoms show up, almost 10% of those afflicted die, according to the World Health Organization; this statistic includes people who did their due diligence be getting their symptoms checked early as well as getting the right type of treatment.

Nevertheless, if you think you may have meningitis, seek immediate medical attention.

Related: Learn more about meningitis symptoms.

What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the tissue covering around the brain and spinal cord.  There are two types: Bacterial and viral.   The bacterial form of meningitis is the more deadly of the two; the viral form is the more common.  

While it’s imperative that your doctor be the one to diagnose your stiff neck and other symptoms, you may be interested in learning about the risk factors for this potentially fatal disease.  

Viral Meningitis Risk Factors

The CDC says that viral meningitis can affect people of all ages but young children (younger than 5) and those whose immune systems have been weakened by disease, medication or transplant are at a higher risk.  The CDC also says that infants younger than one month and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have a severe case of meningitis when they do get it.

Related: Learn more about the viral form of meningitis.

Bacterial Meningitis Risk Factors

This rest of this article covers risk factors for bacterial meningitis.

Related: Learn more about the bacterial form of meningitis.

Age as Meningitis Risk Factor

Let’s talk about age a bit more. 

First, of all the age groups, children are at the highest risk for meningitis.

 The CDC says that the disease is most commonly diagnosed in infants, teens and young adults. 

This means that school age children, plus children who go to day care - and their care takers and teachers are all at risk due to their close proximity and probable sharing of air space, tools and utensils.

If you or your child is a college student who lives in a dorm (or off-campus with a lot of other people) know that the risk is higher.  The CDC warns that infectious diseases tend to spread wherever large groups of people gather together. 

The good news is that meningitis vaccines are available – ask your family physician or inquire at the school’s student clinic for more information.

Related: Is Meningitis Contagious?

Compromised Health and Meningitis Risk

The CDC says that some medical conditions and/or medications can increase your risk for bacterial meningitis.  These include but are not limited to having had your spleen removed (or having been born without one,) or complement component deficiency, which refers to poor functioning of certain types of proteins in the body.

 Ask your doctor about this type of risk if you are unsure.

Travelling to the Meningitis Belt

Traveling to Africa may increase your risk for meningococcal disease.  The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that there’s a meningitis “belt” consisting of 26 sub-Saharan countries – from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east – where the highest rates of this disease have been found.  The CDC says that the dry season, in particular, is a risky time in this area.


Viral Meningitis. CDC website. Last Update Nov 2014. Accessed Feb 2016

Meningococcal Disease: Risk Factors. CDC website. Last Updated June 2015. Accessed Feb 2016.

Meningococcal meningitis Fact sheet. World Health Organization website. Last Updated: Nov 2015. Accessed Feb 2016.

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