Acute Wry Neck

Wry neck is best described as neck pain and stiffness, which is often accompanied by spasm of the supporting neck muscles. This causes neck pain and an inability to turn your neck through its full range of movement.

What you might be feeling

The onset of symptoms can often be sudden (ie; wake with a stiff and sore neck) and therefore can be often called ‘acute wry neck’. Wry neck is a very common condition, which can be quite disabling as the sufferer can experience constant severe pain with simple neck movements. However, treatment is normally very successful and can work relatively quickly to resolve symptoms. Wry neck is most common is younger population. Older wry neck sufferers tend to have a more gradual onset.

What’s really going on inside

Wry neck is thought to have many causes. However, it is believed that the pain and reduction in range of movement is due to either;

  1. Facet Wry Neck – caused by locked facet joint. This is the most common cause of wry neck.
  2. Discogenic Wry Neck – caused by cervical disc injury

Facet joints are located at the back of your spinal column and allow, guide and limit the movements of the neck. They are intended to allow smooth gliding movements between the adjacent vertebra. Wry neck pain is due to the numerous nerve endings that are located in the facet joint itself and the surrounding tissue.

How a physio can help

A physiotherapist can utilise a range of low risk joint mobilisation techniques and soft tissue massage to normalise your facet joint function. You may experience some residual muscle spasm and swelling after treatment due to the trauma. Similar to how a sprained ankle swells, neck joints will also become inflamed but it won’t be as visible. Most patients get some immediate relief from treatment however the residual effects can last up to a week or two. It is also important to normalise your neck muscle and joint function to prevent recurrence, which unfortunately commonly occurs without correct treatment.

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