Physio Information

Knowledge is Power

Understand the problem to treat the cause

Wry Neck

Written by Peter Pavlides

Acute wry neck or acute torticollis is often a sudden onset of symptoms after a quick head turn or movement but can also be more spontaneous whereby you wake up and have symptoms with no obvious cause.

Common symptoms are:

  • Holding your neck away from painful side and sometimes bent slightly forward.
  • Being unable move neck due to pain or the feeling that it is ‘locked’. May adopt the position described above.
  • Pain in the middle and to one side of the neck, sometimes isolated to one spot you can point to with your finger.
  • Surrounding muscle spasm and soreness.

***Note: if you have referred pain/symptoms down your arm or neurological symptoms such as pins and needles, numbness, or unexplained weakness in your arms this may require further examination and assessment by your physiotherapist.

Your physio can help treat acute wry neck with:

  • Joint mobilization or traction
  • Soft tissue massage or dry needling
  • Stretches and exercises for you to do at home which will help reduce your symptoms and stop them from coming back
  • Advice on your work or home set up/duties which can help you return to normal function more easily and again reduce the chance of symptoms re-occurring.

1. There are however some things you can do yourself!

  • Movement away from the side of pain
  • Rotation away i.e. looking over your shoulder. 
  • Bending your neck bringing your ear towards your shoulder.

2. Use of a heat pack can give you pain relief. 

  • We recommend using a wheat pack for no longer than 20 mins over your neck and shoulder area. You can do this one every hour as you require.

3. Self-Assisted Rotation with a towel

  • Pinpoint the sore/stiff part of your neck with your fingers
  • Fold up a towel, place the middle of the towel over the sore point.
  • If turning to the left (rotating away from the painful side): Pin the towel down on your shoulder with your left hand then pull the towel tight with your right hand.
  • Maintain the tension on the towel and direction of force as your turn your head to the right. Turn only as far as you feel comfortable. Make sure there is no increase in pain whilst doing it or after.
  • Repeat for 10 times, can be done 3-4 times a day if required. 


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