Wry neck, or torticollis, is a painfully twisted and tilted neck. The top of the head generally tilts to one side while the chin tilts to the other side. The pain and stiffness is aggravated by neck movements.


The condition can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired. It can also be the result of damage to the neck muscles or blood supply, as a result of violent head movements, a hit to the neck and head, or if you have slept in an uncomfortable position and stretched your neck during sleep. Wry neck is usually harmless and goes away without treatment within a few weeks. However, there’s a chance of relapse.


Chronic wry neck can cause debilitating pain and difficulty performing daily tasks. Fortunately, medications and therapies can relieve pain and stiffness. Surgery can also sometimes correct the condition. Treatment is most successful if it’s started early. This is especially true for children.


Various things can cause neck pain. The most common is the overstretching of the soft tissues of the neck. Disc curvature can also be a major cause of torticollis. In both cases, the muscle spasm is a reflexive protective mechanism that causes the pain.


Wry neck can be inherited. It can also develop in the womb. This may happen if your baby’s head is in the wrong position. It can also be due to damage to the muscles or blood supply to the neck.


Anyone can develop wry neck after a muscle or nervous system injury. However, most of the time, the cause of wry neck is unknown. This is referred to as idiopathic torticollis.


Torticollis mostly affects young people.


Typical symptoms of neck blockage are sudden pain in the neck area that is felt in connection with movement. The neck muscles can be sore and it can also hurt between the shoulder blades or the back of the head. It can be difficult to move the neck and you may experience a stiff neck for several weeks.


Get immediate medical help if you have the following symptoms along with torticollis:


  • fever
  • inability to bend your head forward
  • intense headache
  • change awareness
  • nausea and vomiting.


Bear in mind that children may have pain around the neck area during infection due to swollen lymph nodes.

Prevention and protection

You can prevent neck stiffness through regular physical activity and by training the muscles around the neck and back in a comprehensive manner. It is advised to review your posture and work environment as it can affect the experience of stiffness and pain in your neck.


Prescription-free, pain-relieving drugs can also help.


In normal cases, neck stiffness resolves by itself, but it can take a couple of weeks.


Physiotherapists or chiropractors can provide manual treatment and prescribe neck exercises that can ease symptoms.


Several types of tests can also determine the cause of your wry neck. A motion study of the neck can be done together with an assessment of possible mechanisms of occurrence. Examination of reflexes and sensation can be done to assess possible problems with nerves.


For prolonged neck blockage or for symptoms such as loss of sensation, muscle weakness or nerve pain in the arm, you may need to be investigated further.


Painkillers can be purchased over the counter or prescribed by a doctor.

When to consult a doctor

Get emergency care if you have a fever along with neck pain and stiffness, or intense headaches with a change of consciousness along with neck pain.


Contract a doctor if you have pain or numbness in the arm along with torticollis.


If you have any other joint or muscle disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis and also have a torticollis, you should contact a doctor.


If you have torticollis that does not go away within two weeks, you should also get help.

How APPOTEK can help

APPOTEK can help you with torticollis. In the initial consultation, a nurse or a physician will make a diagnosis, then may prescribe medicine or refer you for further examination. If your child has the problem, they should also attend the consultation.


Vadym Diadiun, Doctor of Medicine, M.D.