A Pain In The Neck: Wry Neck
(By Si En Wong, Physiotherapist)
Wry Neck is an acute neck injury, noticed by a sudden onset of sharp neck pain and stiffness, that limits your range of neck movement, and can often feel ‘locked’.
The injury typically occurs after either a prolonged abnormal posture such as sleeping in an unusual position or after a sudden, quick movement of the head.
The main symptoms include limited neck mobility in directions that compresses the facet joints of the spine and muscle spasms of the neck muscle.
Unfortunately, it can happen to anyone, from school kids playing games on electronic devices to working adults who are constantly on the computer.
So why does it happen? What are the causes?
There are two types of Wry Neck. The most common is caused by stiff facet joints, while the other type is Discogenic (disc related).
- Facet joints are the small joints between each spinal vertebrae. They provide movement to the neck by gliding and rotating on top of one another.
- Stiffness can occur due to mild injuries like sudden neck movements or prolonged uncomfortable postures.
- Pain occurs due to heightened nerve endings along the facet joint and surrounding muscles.
- Pain is usually localized to the area.
- Injury to the disc can cause inflammation which leads to irritation of your nerves and surrounding structures of your neck.
- Due to irritation of the sounding nerve roots, pain can be referred into your chest or down your arm.
- Other symptoms like numbness or tingling can also occur.
As daunting as everything sounds, don’t fret. A high percentage of wry neck incidents recover quickly with Physiotherapy treatments within a short period of time.
What does treatment include?
With a facet joint Wry Neck, the aim is to reduce muscle spasms and facilitate movement back into the facet joint.
This can be achieved through specific joint mobilization, dry needling, and massage. Strengthening exercises for the neck muscles and upper thoracic muscles are also ideal to prevent future flare-ups. This can take anywhere from 1-3 weeks.
For a disc-related Wry Neck, the duration is a little longer at 6-8 weeks due to the fact disc injuries just take time.
Similar to the facet joint, the aim is to reduce muscle spasms and facilitate movement back into the neck with hands-on treatment.
However, because there is neural involvement, treatment needs to include decreasing neural tension within the neck and arms. Decreasing pressure through the neck is also helpful to recovery.
If you are experiencing neck pain, don’t put up with it, Physiotherapy treatment can be quick and effective. Call us on (08) 6389 2947 or click here to book online.