Wry Neck

Neck, Spine, Blog, / By Winsen Citra

Have you ever woken up with a sudden severe neck pain? For the next few days, you then walk around with your neck slightly tilted and an inability to turn your head to one side due to the pain. This is usually known as torticollis (wry neck). This is a very common condition which can be quite debilitating as even the smallest of neck movements can be very painful. Fortunately, physiotherapy is often very successful in treating torticollis and improvements are very quick.

In order for you to know how long you can expect recovery to take, it is important to differentiate between the two types of torticollis.

Neck Facet Joints
Image of Facet Joints

Facet Joint Wry Neck

A facet joint is located at the back of the spine. There is a facet joint between a vertebrae and the next one on either side of the spine. They allow for movement in the neck while providing stability.

Torticollis can come about due to a locked facet joint and is often referred to as facet wry neck. This type of torticollis is commonly reported as a sudden stiff and painful neck when they wake up in the morning. The actual cause of facet wry neck  is unknown.

Signs and symptoms of facet wry neck
  • Pain –  This is a sharp and localised to the side that is affected and does not radiate to the arms
  • Muscle Spasm – The pain causes the surrounding muscles to tighten up in response to the neck pain and inflammation
  • Loss of Mobility – You will not be able to turn your neck to the painful side due to pain and a mechanical block in the joint. A typical posture that you will have is your head tilted away from the painful side

Facet wry neck can be effectively treated by physiotherapists by utlising joint mobilisation techniques and soft tissue release in order to unlock your joint. After your joint is unlocked, you should be able to move your neck normally. The pain in the neck will also be significantly reduced. However, some residual pain and swelling will stay in the neck for up to a week.

Bulging discs in the neck
Discs Bulging & Pressing on Nerves

Discogenic Neck Pain

Discogenic wry neck means that the condition is caused by the discs. The protrusion of the disc posteriorly causes it to press against nerves and surrounding tissues. Unlike facet wry neck, this type of wry neck is more gradual in onset and is dull in nature.

Signs and symptoms
  • Pain – Dull aching pain that is less localised. May radiate to other areas such as your arm
  • Loss of Mobility – You will be stiff, but your movement will not be blocked. You will still be able to turn your neck, only to be limited by pain
  • Muscle Spasm – Similar to facet wry neck, the surrounding muscles tightens up in response to the neck pain and inflammation
  • Neurological Symptoms – You may experience some pins and needles in the arms. If this happens to you, see your local doctor!

Unlike facet wry neck, discogenic wry neck cannot does not respond with immediate improvement upon receiving physiotherapy treatment. Due to the more severe nature of the condition, treatment for discogenic wry neck may take up to 6-8 weeks. In the most severe cases, a surgical intervention may be needed.At Elevate Physiotherapy, we think that the best course of action if you experience any kind of neck pain is always to seek professional help immediately. Only a doctor or a physiotherapist will be able to tell you or confirm if you have wry neck or if you have something more serious. If you are unsure, contact us! Our friendly therapists are always more than happy to help. In the meantime, check out the video below where our very own therapist, Winsen, shares a quick stretch to relieve neck stiffness. Also, check out our YouTube channel for more tips and helpful exercises for your condition.