Wry Neck


A wry neck affects many individuals. Also known as torticollis, a wry neck can cause neck pain, stiffness, and abnormal posture, making it difficult to carry out everyday activities.

What is Wry Neck?

Wry neck, also known as torticollis, is a neck muscle disorder that causes an abnormal head tilt or neck inclination. There are different types of torticollis, including acute torticollis, spasmodic torticollis, congenital torticollis, and muscular torticollis.

Acute torticollis is the sudden onset of neck pain and stiffness, often caused by an injury or strain. Spasmodic torticollis is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary muscle spasms in the neck. Congenital torticollis is a condition that occurs at birth, caused by abnormal positioning in the womb or during delivery. Muscular torticollis is a type of congenital torticollis caused by a shortening of the neck muscles on one side of the neck.

What is Wry Neck?
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Cervical dystonia is another neck muscle disorder often associated with wry neck. This neurological condition causes involuntary muscle contractions in the neck, leading to abnormal head postures and neck movements.

Symptoms of Wry Neck

Wry neck, or torticollis, can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms in the neck area. The most common symptoms include neck pain, stiffness, and cramps. Individuals may also experience discomfort when trying to move their neck, and may notice an abnormal posture that includes a head tilt or neck inclination.

In some cases, the symptoms may be mild, while in others they can be considerably more severe. Regardless of the severity, it’s important to recognize the symptoms and seek appropriate medical attention. Individuals can effectively manage their symptoms and prevent future flare-ups with proper diagnosis and treatment.

Other less common symptoms of wry neck may include limited range of motion, difficulty sleeping, headaches, and muscle weakness. If you experience any of these symptoms in combination with neck pain and stiffness, it’s important to see a doctor promptly to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

When to Seek Medical Attention for Wry Neck Symptoms

If you experience severe neck pain, sudden onset of symptoms, or any other unusual symptoms besides your wry neck, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. Additionally, if conservative treatments like physical therapy and medication have not helped improve your symptoms, seeing a specialist for further evaluation and treatment is important.

Recognising and understanding the symptoms of a wry neck is an important step towards effective management and treatment. Individuals can manage their symptoms and prevent further complications by seeking timely medical attention and following appropriate treatment guidelines.

Causes of Wry Neck

Understanding the underlying causes of wry neck is essential to managing this condition effectively.
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Wry neck, also known as torticollis, is a condition characterized by abnormal neck posture, neck muscle spasms, and neck pain. Understanding the underlying causes of wry neck is essential to managing this condition effectively.

Neck muscle spasm is a common cause of wry neck. Muscle spasms can be triggered by sudden movements or overuse of the neck muscles. Cervical muscle strain, commonly caused by poor posture or repetitive motions, can also contribute to its development. In some cases, cervical misalignment, such as a tilted or rotated neck, can result in this condition.

Certain medical conditions, such as cervical dystonia, can also cause torticollis. Cervical dystonia is a neurological disorder that affects the muscles in the neck, resulting in abnormal neck movements and postures.

Other potential causes of wry neck include:

Trauma or injury to the neck

– Abnormalities in the inner ear

– Infections or inflammation in the neck muscles

Understanding the underlying causes of wry neck is essential to determining the appropriate treatment options. Seeking medical attention is recommended to diagnose and determine the underlying cause.

Treating Wry Neck

Treating Wry Neck
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Various treatment options are available for individuals suffering from wry neck, depending on the severity of their condition. Conservative treatments are generally the first line of approach, with invasive approaches reserved for cases where conservative treatments have failed.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a non-invasive and effective treatment method. A physical therapist will work with the individual to develop a customised exercise program targeting their symptoms. Strengthening exercises, stretching routines, and manual therapy techniques such as massage and manipulation can help improve flexibility, reduce pain, and increase range of motion in the neck.


Medication may sometimes be recommended to help manage wry neck symptoms. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or NSAIDs can help reduce pain and inflammation. Prescription muscle relaxants may also be prescribed to help alleviate muscle spasms and stiffness.


Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections may be an option for individuals with severe cases. Botox works by blocking the nerve signals that cause muscle spasms, effectively paralyzing the affected muscles. This can help alleviate the symptoms of wry neck, but the effects are temporary and repeat injections are necessary.


Surgery may be an option in rare cases where conservative treatments have failed. Surgery for wry neck involves cutting or lengthening the affected muscle to relieve tension and reduce spasms. However, surgery is usually reserved for severe cases where other treatments have been unsuccessful and comes with the risk of complications.

Discussing all possible treatment options with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate course of action for each individual’s unique situation is important.

Managing Wry Neck

Living with this condition can be challenging, but there are several practical strategies that individuals can use to manage their symptoms. Consider the following tips:

Lifestyle Modifications

Engaging in gentle exercises, such as yoga and swimming, can help maintain flexibility and reduce muscle tension in the neck area. When sleeping, use a contoured cervical pillow to help support the natural curves of the neck. Avoid any activities that may cause undue strain on the neck, such as carrying heavy bags or looking down for extended periods.

Ergonomic Practices

Ensure proper posture while working or sitting for long periods. This involves keeping the back straight, feet flat, and shoulders relaxed. Avoid hunching over or straining the neck to look at computer screens or mobile devices. An ergonomic evaluation of the workplace can help identify areas where adjustments can be made to reduce stress on the neck.

Self-Care Techniques

Applying heat or cold packs to the neck area can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain. Gentle massages or stretches can also help to loosen tight muscles. Practicing stress reduction techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, can help relieve tension throughout the body, including the neck.

Managing Wry Neck
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It is important to note that while these techniques can help manage symptoms, individuals with torticollis should seek the guidance of a medical professional for a comprehensive treatment plan. With proper care and management, individuals can effectively manage wry neck and improve their quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Wry Neck

How do you fix a wry neck?

Treatment for a wry neck often involves a combination of:

  • Rest and avoiding movements that exacerbate pain.
  • Use of a neck brace or collar to provide support and limit movements.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Gentle stretching and physiotherapy exercises to help improve neck mobility.
  • In severe cases, corticosteroid injections or surgery might be necessary.

Always consult a healthcare provider for a personalised treatment plan.

What causes sudden wry neck?

A sudden wry neck, also known as acute torticollis, can be caused by minor strains or sprains to muscles or ligaments in the neck. This can happen after a sudden movement, sleeping in an awkward position, or due to an injury. In some cases, the exact cause has yet to be discovered.

How long does wry neck last?

Most cases of wry neck resolve within a few days to a week with appropriate treatment. However, the duration can vary based on the severity of the condition and how promptly treatment is initiated.

What happens if wry neck is left untreated?

If left untreated, torticollis could lead to chronic pain and stiffness, limited range of motion, or, in rare cases, permanent muscle shortening (contracture). Therefore, seeking medical treatment is recommended if you’re experiencing symptoms of wry neck.