A wry neck is a common condition characterized by a sudden onset of pain and stiffness in the neck. Patients with a wry neck typically experience severe one sided sharp neck pain which is most common in the lower neck region. There is usually an inability to turn the head to the painful side and often a resultant postural deformity due to pain. The postural deformity is usually positioned with the head held away from the side of pain with the patient unable to correct this due to a protective muscle spasm and pain.
Acute wry neck can have several causes. It is the thought that the pain and reduction in range of motion results most commonly from a ‘locked’ facet joint but can also be caused by a cervical disc injury.
A wry neck usually occurs either upon waking in the morning or due to a specific activity often involving a sudden, quick movement of the neck. Occasionally symptoms can come on gradually.
In patients who receive the right physiotherapy treatment and modify their activities appropriately, symptoms can ease in as little as 3 days. Typically, however, patients will take approximately 2 to 3 to be fully relieved of symptoms.
Treatment for a Wry Neck
Physiotherapy treatment for patients with this condition is vital to hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome and decrease the likelihood of injury recurrence. Treatment may comprise:
- Joint mobilisation
- Joint manipulation
- Spinal and pelvic realignment
- Dry needling /acupuncture
- Deep tissue massage/myofascial release
- Exercise programs to stretch, self treat and improve proprioception, balance, strength and core stability
- Biomechanical Assessment
- Neural mobilisation
- Education / training advise/ phased return to exercise
- Activity modification advice
- Ice or heat treatment
- Clinical Pilates
- Injection advice