Torticollis (Wry Neck)

What Is It?

Wry neck is a term used synonymous with Torticollis.

Torticollis is a positional irregularity of the head and neck where the head is bent to the side of the irregularity and the chin points towards the opposite shoulder. The sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle is primarily involved.


The pain is felt on the affected side of the neck. All neck movements are limited due to pain. The affected SCM will be in spasm or experience a twitching sensation

Inflammation may be present if the torticollis is a result of a muscle strain or injury to the neck.

Usually the x-rays will be negative. If the torticollis is due to a subluxation of the first and second cervical vertebrae, x-ray results will be positive

What Causes It?
  • Cervical spine injury
  • SCM muscle strain
  • Subluxation of the first and second cervical vertebrae (seen in severe arthritic conditions)
  • Poor posture
  • Maintain awkward position for several hours (slept on neck wrong)
  • Nerve lesion due to cervical disc injury
What Should You Do?
  1. Heat application for pain relief and decrease of muscle tension
  2. Gentle stretches to lengthen shortened muscles if there is no history of trauma
Will Physiotherapy Help Me?

A physiotherapist will assess your condition and determine the origin of your pain. Your treatment plan will address both the local symptoms such as pain and inflammation as well as the cause of your pain (see causes above).

You will also be given an exercise program that will include proper stretching of shortened neck muscles and strengthening of lengthened neck muscles.

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