Have you gone to bed feeling very well only to wake up the next day with a very painful stiff neck? Yes, most of us have. It’s called torticollis or wry neck. Although it can be very uncomfortable when you are affected by it, it’s rarely dangerous or life threatening.
Torticollis, also known as wry neck, is a condition in which the neck is twisted that can cause the head to tilt at an odd angle. Torticollis in Latin means “twisted neck”. Wry neck often goes away without treatment, and most times has no cause for panic or going to visit your doctor.
Symptoms of Wry neck:
- Pain on one side of your neck
- Neck muscle stiffness in that area
- Inability to turn the head
- Difficulty to straighten neck
- Pain may spread to back of the head or to the shoulder thereby causing back pain and shoulder pain
- Restricted neck movement particularly on one side.
- Sensitive painful muscles on the neck.
What Causes Wry Neck?
In most people, the cause of torticollis (wry neck) is not known. It can happen in people with no previous neck complaints. It is also common in young people. And usually no obvious injury. But, a minor sprain or muscle irritation in the neck may cause it.
Some reasons for this include:
- Sitting or sleeping in an unusual position for a long time without good neck support. Like sleeping on a chair or after sitting in a plane for a long flight.
- Poor sitting posture when using a computer or sitting to read for many hours.
- Carrying heavy loads like a briefcase or shopping bag.
- Infections of your throat or upper airways. Like cough, cold and catarrh. These can cause swelling in the lymph glands in your neck which can trigger a spasm in your neck muscles.
- Any abnormality or injury of your neck. For example, neck tumours or blood vessel abnormalities
How to Treat Wry Neck:
Thankfully, most cases do NOT need seeing a doctor, they usually resolve on their own or with painkillers and simple neck exercises.
This below techniques could help you get over your torticollis:
1. You can use painkillers (paracetamol) 4times a day for 3-5 days. That is very helpful. Use ibuprofen if you don’t have a sensitive tummy.
2. NEVER wear a neck collar.
3. Keep your neck moving as much as possible. At first the pain may be quite bad, so you can rest for a day or so.
However, gently start slowly exercising the neck as soon as you are able to. You should not let it stiffen up. Every 2-3 hours gently move your neck in each direction. Move it up, down, sideways and every other way as much as you can. Do this many times a day. As much as possible, continue with your normal activities. Don’t worry, you will not damage your neck any further by moving it.
4. Sit properly when you sit for long. Like on a flight or in front of a computer to work. Keep your head, neck and back straight. Don’t slouch. Don’t bend forward. Sit upright. Bending and slouching ruins your neck.
5. Try not to use more than one pillow. But make sure it’s firm.
6. Get a neck massage. That helps. Or if you can afford it, get a physiotherapist to help with neck exercises.
7. Some people use heat packs on the neck. Just get a face towel in hot water or hot water bottle and put it on your neck for a few minutes 3-4 times a day (make sure the water is not too hot).
A wry neck (acute torticollis) often improves within 24-48 hours.
However in some people, it may take up to a week for the symptoms to clear up completely. Occasionally, in some people, the symptoms last longer or may even come back at a later time for no reasons.