The neck is an extremely important part of the human anatomy as it performs the tough job of holding up the head, weighing in at around 4.5-5kg’s. The muscles and surrounding bones of the neck provide additional support to the head and allow it to move freely. The neck is also the most mobile part of our body and this is the one of the reasons it is prone to a number of injuries or dysfunctions. Trauma, injury, poor posture, and degenerative diseases are the most common causes of neck pain. Wry neck is a common type of neck pain and affects up to 10% of the Australian population at any given time. So, what causes it, what are the symptoms of wry neck, and what is the best treatment available for this debilitating condition?
What is It?
Wry neck also referred to as “stiff neck” or “Torticollis” is an abnormality of the neck in which the muscles of the neck that control the movement/position of the head become stiff and painful, symptoms occur when the head is twisted or turned to one side.
Although wry neck can affect any person at any stage, it usually affects people in their middle age and women are more likely to suffer from this condition than men. The symptoms begin to appear gradually and then reach a point where the patient feels constant and sometimes severe pain even with simple neck movements.
What Causes Wry Neck?
The exact cause of the wry neck is not clear, however, doctors have identified several factors that may contribute to the onset of wry neck. Some of the most common contributors to the onset of wry neck are:
- poor posture
- sleeping in an awkward position
- working in an awkward position for a prolonged period
- cool drafts from air conditioning
- lifting a heavyweight
- injury to the neck or spine
- infection of the head or neck
- infection in other parts of the body such as ear, jaw, teeth, scalp, sinuses
- scar tissues
- vascular abnormalities
Types of Wry Neck
Depending on the underlying cause, we can categorise wry neck into the following two major categories:
- Facet – caused by a locked facet joint
- Discogenic – caused by cervical disk injury
- Congenital – when a baby is born with this condition
The symptoms associated with it may vary from person to person, however, some of the typical symptoms associated with this condition are:
- severe pain or burning sensation in the neck
- restricted and painful neck movement
- muscle tightness and spasms in the neck and shoulder
- altered/stuck head and neck posture
- sometimes the pain may radiate down into the arms
The first line of defense for people experiencing wry neck starts at home. Use of heat packs, liniments and gentle movement can help to soothe and relieve the muscular tension.
Specific treatment will be determined by a healthcare professional after considering the following factors:
- your age, sex, overall health, and medical history
- extent of condition
- severity of pain
- your tolerance level for specific therapies, procedures, and medicines
- your personal preference
- your lifestyle
Some of the typical treatment options:
- manual therapy
- neck collar
- Low level laser therapy
- physical therapy (Remedial Massage)