Neck pain is extremely common, but what exactly is wry neck? It is a condition that involves the muscles and nerves in the neck being stiff or painful, or perhaps even damaged. The muscles that surround the neck spasm, resulting in pain and limiting range of motion and movement. Wry neck is a very common ailment that can be really debilitating as the pain can be quite severe and any movement of the neck is extremely difficult to deal with.
Wry neck is sometimes referred to as “Torticollis”, a twisted and tilted neck. The neck muscles contract and the top of the head generally tilts to one side while the chin moves out to the opposite side. The feeling of your neck being ‘stuck’ in one position is actually a protective reaction by your body to minimise movement in this area to help prevent further damage.
What Causes Wry Neck?
The exact cause of wry neck isn’t known; however, the condition can be present at birth or it can be acquired as the result of damage to the neck muscles or blood supply. Some of the factors that contribute to wry neck include:
- The condition being genetically inherited.
- A complication in the womb or at birth.
- Poor neck support while sitting or sleeping.
- Injury to the neck.
- Sudden jerking or flicking of the head.
- Poor posture.
- Carrying an uneven heavy load such as a suitcase in one hand.
- Inflammation or stiffness of the soft tissue in the neck (ligaments, muscle, tendons, facet joints between vertebrae).
- Neurological problems.
- Viral infection.
Common Symptoms of Wry Neck
Sometimes symptoms develop slowly and worsen over time. One or both sides of the neck go into spasm and pain can be felt from the top of the neck down into the shoulder blade, and sometimes to the top of the shoulder.
Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Being unable to move your head normally.
- Stiffness or pain in the neck.
- One shoulder being higher than the other.
- The chin tilting to one side.
- Swollen muscles in the neck.
Treating Wry Neck
The positive is that this condition may resolve on its own with a little self-care at home.
- Using a heat pack on the affected area or having a hot shower can help loosen the neck joints.
- Some self-massage to the neck can also help loosen the area and relieve pain and muscle spasm. Gently and slowly massage in circles along the neck and shoulders.
- Keep moving your neck as the pain allows and do some really gentle neck stretches. Try stretching your neck by lowering your chin to chest and then gently guiding your head to the side to stretch the side of the neck.
- Avoid lying or sitting with your neck in an awkward position – try not to sleep on your stomach and ensure you have a comfortable, supportive pillow.
- Assess your seated posture and take regular breaks from long periods of sitting to help keep the neck from seizing up.
- Keep yourself warm and don’t venture out in the cold without being rugged up.
If neck pain persists for more than a couple of days and professional intervention is needed, the treatment for wry neck can be very effective and there is often a short timeframe for recovery.
Massage therapy is a fantastic option for assisting with the discomfort of a wry neck. A physical examination will be carried out using a range of motion testing and by the therapist touching the muscles and joints. This will identify the tissues and joints that have been affected so a treatment plan can be developed.
Remedial massage is ideal to relieve neck spasms and the resulting discomfort, and the team at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy are experts in all types of neck pain. Specific treatment will be carried out such as trigger point therapy and gentle stretching to relax the tension in the soft tissue in the neck. Perhaps deep tissue massage may be the best option for you. Early treatment can shorten the duration and reduce the complications of this condition.
Don’t put up with that pain in the neck. Relieve pain and discomfort caused by wry neck easily and quickly by booking a remedial massage – be moving well in no time!