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Torticollis (acute wry neck)

Acute wry neck, or torticollis, is classified as a twisting of the neck to one side with an individual unable to bring the neck back to forward facing position. Acute wry neck often also presents with significant pain and stiffness in the neck. Acute wry neck can be unsettling for individuals who sustain such an injury as it can appear to come on suddenly for no reason and without warning, often upon waking. However, the onset of acute wry neck is related to certain events such as awkward sustained sleeping positions, or a traumatic event related to the neck.

But why does this happen?

There are a couple of reasons that acute wry neck arises. The first is related to muscle tightness and guarding that occurs as a protective mechanism from the body to prevent damage. This muscle tightness can happen with an of the muscles that assist with turning and tilting the head and neck, but most commonly it is the muscle called sternocleidomastoid that is contributing. The other is related to the spine within the neck area, also known as the cervical spine. The spine consists of vertebrae, discs, joints that are influenced by the muscles, tendons and forces around it to allow it to move efficiently. With an acute wry neck presentation, it can be seen to have contribution from joints called facet joints within the cervical spine, these joints usually help the spine slide, glide and rotate smoothly. What can happen is that these joints can get locked up, kind of like a door hinge when it gets jammed. Either one or both may be contributing to the reason why pain and restriction to neck movement is present.

Fortunately, though this sort of injury responds well to treatment, in fact it is possible to settle this condition quickly, often within a day or two. With careful and accurate assessment by one of our qualified physiotherapists we will be able to establish why this has occurred and help to return your function to normal. This may be done by hands on techniques, stretching, and tailored exercise programs. We also provide exercises and self-management strategies for any future occurrences to ensure you have the best outcome.

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