Got neck pain?
Acute torticollis, sometimes called “wry neck,” is a condition in which either the muscles or joints in the neck (sometimes both) are not functioning properly and are causing the neck to have a reduced range of motion, coupled with what can be rather extreme neck pain. Causes include latent trigger points in one area of the affected muscles that have now become active, or the muscles in their entirety, have tightened-up. It also is possible that the synovial joints in the cervical spine have become fixated for one reason or another and are creating the neck pain which can lead to muscle spasm. Often, both situations are occurring and it is a chicken and egg scenario, with whether the muscle or joints are the root cause. To the individual suffering, it doesn’t matter, they just want to get better. The whole situation may be a result of someone having slept awkwardly, or perhaps they had a cool breeze blowing on their neck during the night; I’ve even had a couple patients tell me that they were drying their hair with a towel and felt a “click” in their neck and then it was all downhill from there.
So what can be done?
This is a common condition that chiropractors see a lot of and it is not a difficult problem to deal with. Treatment involves adjustment of the involved vertebral levels to restore mobility and releasing the muscles in order to diminish their spasm and tightness. I’ve found that due to muscles that originate in the upper back and travel up into the neck, it is always a good idea to evaluate that area as well. In very acute cases, the patient cannot stand much treatment to their neck and so this is a good place to start and can provide relief until the neck pain has calmed-down enough that it can be worked on as well. Application of kinesiology tape that can be very helpful in aiding to provide support and increase circulation to the area. Homecare involves application of moist heat (hot-water bottle, hot shower, etc.) that acts to increase circulation too and help calm the muscles down. I’ve found that patients are pretty much back to normal in 3-4 visits over 7-10 days with no residual effects.
Dr. Mark Strudwick is a third-generation chiropractor in Victoria, B.C.