Wry Neck

Posted on August 16, 2018

Pain in the Neck  – Wry Neck / Acute Torticollis

What is Wry Neck

Wry Neck is a relatively common, acute episode of neck pain. It is characterised by the sudden onset of sharp pain and neck stiffness which restricts one’s ability to turn their head. Physiotherapy is an effective method to minimise neck pain and have you back to full health sooner.

Read more to find out how our Physiotherapists at Dr7 Physiotherapy & Podiatry can help you ...
Read more to find out how our Physiotherapists at Dr7 Physiotherapy & Podiatry can help you …


Symptoms of Wry Neck

Have you ever woken with severe neck pain and found it extremely difficult to move your head?

If so, it is likely that you might have experienced an episode of Wry neck.

Typical symptoms of Wry neck include:

  • Severe neck pain
  • Sudden onset of pain
  • Pain felt on one side of the neck
  • Restriction of neck movement
  • Muscle tightness and spasm
  • Altered neck posture
  • Asymmetries between shoulder/neck position
  • Headaches

Causes of Wry Neck

Acute wry neck typically occurs without warning. The exact cause of wry neck if not completely understood. However we do know that it can be triggered by one of the following events:

  • Minor injury to the neck
  • Sleeping in sustained, awkward positions
  • High levels of stress
  • Poor postural loading
  • Excessive, unaccustomed physical activity
  • Sudden, jerk of the head


Relevant Anatomy of the Neck

Also known as the cervical spine, the neck consists of 7 building blocks called the cervical vertebrae. Each vertebra is separated by a disc and joins to another vertebra above/below it to form a facet joint.  Together the disc and facet joints support the weight of the head and allow movement within the neck.


Types of Wry Neck

Discogenic Wry Neck

Discs are spongey shock absorbers that lie between each vertebra. These discs may sustain micro-injury under stress, leading to inflammation and swelling. This causes increased pressure to the surrounding structures within the neck and consequently high levels of pain and restricted neck movement.

 Facet Wry Neck

Facet joints are small swivel joints that allow smooth gliding and turning movements. Irritating positions or movements of the neck can cause a “locking” sensation. This leads to irritation in the facet joint and associated muscle spasm. Nerve endings located within this region trigger intense pain and jerky movement.


Management of Wry Neck

The good news about Wry Neck is that it can be treated quickly and effectively with the help of one of our Physiotherapists at Dr7 Physiotherapy & Podiatry. We recommend immediate treatment for best results.

At Dr7, we will undertake an assessment of your neck to confirm diagnosis and the joints involved.  This will form a management program which will be provided and put into action with the help of our therapists.

Our aims at Dr7 Physiotherapy & Podiatry are:

  • Confirm your diagnosis
  • Normalise joint movement
  • Relax muscle spasms
  • Improve muscle length/tension
  • Ensure optimal cervical posture & function
  • Educate to prevent further injury


If you suspect an acute wry neck, please call out clinic and we’ll do our best to fast track your appointment.


Treatment at Dr7 Physiotherapy

Gentle treatment modalities are used to normalise facet joint function and settle soft tissue sensitisation:

  • Therapeutic cervical mobilisations of the facet joints
  • Cervical traction to free up the facet joints & deload the discs
  • Soft tissue massage
  • Postural education
  • Strategies to unload the neck (e.g. pillow, postures)
  • Dry needling
  • Stretching
  • A tailored home exercise program



If an episode of Wry Neck occurs it is important to take the following steps until you review with one of our Physiotherapists:

  • Avoid vigorous, fast movements of the neck
  • Avoid sustaining prolonged head postures
  • Apply a heat pack to the neck and surrounding muscles
  • Speak with your Pharmacist about taking anti-inflammatory medication


With Physiotherapy treatment symptoms will ease within the first 1-4 days, with normal function being restored within the first 2 weeks.


If you have questions please feel free to contact our clinic today on (08) 3949 1777. Wry neck is a debilitating injury, however it can be easily resolved with the help of Physiotherapy intervention.