Neck pain is something that many of us will suffer from at some point in our lives. Acute wry neck is a very common condition that for some can feel slightly worrying as your normal range available at the neck quickly decreases due to significant pain during even the smallest of movements.
This threat of pain, that consequently reduces movement, works as a protective mechanism for the neck as a way of avoiding further injury. As therapists, we can relieve this threat and begin gentle movement exercises and mobilisations that will calm the muscles in and around the neck, allowing them to relax, improvement the range at the joints in the upper levels of the spine, and teach these structures that movement is good – which in turn will reduce the pain you are feeling.
Causes, symptoms, and treatment of Acute Wry Neck
The onset of acute wry neck has many origins, some of which include:
- Sleeping in an awkward position.
- Poor posture (frequently related to desk posture).
- A sudden movement of the neck which has caused the surrounding muscles to spasm and produce pain.
- Lack of strength in the deep muscles in the neck and upper shoulders.
Symptoms will commonly consist of:
- Pain around the neck and shoulders, sometimes radiating downward towards the shoulder blades.
- Significantly restricted movement at the neck, usually due to pain.
- Muscle spasms in the neck and shoulder area.
Now, although significant pain can be present when suffering from an injury such as acute wry neck, this does not mean that movement or exercise should be stopped. Instead, safe and guided exercise and mobilisation work should be implemented to desensitise the area, reduce pain and start the rehabilitation process. As well as aiding recovery, early movement and mobilisation of the injured area will improve the overall health, control and strength of the neck. This in turn will reduce the risk of re-injury as the surrounding muscles and joints will be stronger and able to withstand more day-to-day stresses.
Treatment options for acute wry neck:
- Soft tissue massage at the neck and surrounding areas.
- Mobilisations of the neck to increase movement and reduce pain.
- Gentle mobility/stretching exercises of the neck.
- Strengthening of the muscles at the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
Although acute wry neck symptoms can go away on their own after a few days of rest, the likelihood of developing long term issues, such as stiff segments of the upper spine and increased muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, can increase significantly, as well as increasing the chance of secondary injury to the area. This makes coming to see a therapist at IAC imperative to ensure that we find the cause of the issue, resolve it and make the area strong to keep you moving pain-free. Book in with one of our friendly therapists today to start your rehabilitation journey.
Rouch, A., Isquierdo, J., Vergez, S., & De Bonnecaze, G. (2019). Acute febrile torticollis. European annals of otorhinolaryngology, head and neck diseases, 136(6), 515-516.
Vincent, K., Maigne, J. Y., Fischhoff, C., Lanlo, O., & Dagenais, S. (2013). Systematic review of manual therapies for nonspecific neck pain. Joint Bone Spine, 80(5), 508-515.