By Zachary Cronk. Physiotherapist
If you have ever woken up in the morning with a painful, stiff neck then you might have experienced a condition called acute wry neck. Acute wry neck is most often associated with muscle spasms and restricted neck movement which will often cause pain. These muscle spasms will often cause people to hold their neck in an awkward posture and to experience moderate to severe pain when trying to move.
The cause of acute wry neck is unknown, with many people explaining that they woke up with the condition. However, some potential causes include:
- Quick neck movements
- Sustained awkward or unusual neck positions
- Uncomfortable sleeping position and/or pillow
There are two main types of acute wry neck: facet joint wry neck and discogenic wry neck.
Facet joints are small joints that are on either side of the spine. They allow forward-backward, side to side and rotation movements. Facet joint wry neck occurs when these joints get locked or stuck. Typically, this occurs in people that are 5-30 years old and more commonly presents in females rather than males.
The other type of acute wry neck is discogenic wry neck. Discogenic wry neck occurs when there is inflammation or dysfunction with the intervertebral disc which causes associated muscle spasm and pain. The intervertebral disc acts like a shock absorber for the spine and aids in movements. Typically, this occurs in people older than 30 years of age.
People that have acute wry neck will often complain of a variety of symptoms:
- Trouble finding comfortable positions
- Moderate-intense pain in the middle or sides of the neck
- Decreased movement and often have head tilted away from pain
- Can be felt in the lower neck, shoulders, and upper chest.
Acute wry neck is a self-limiting condition and will often resolve within 1-2 weeks, although some can report pain for up to 6 weeks. There are no long-term effects of an acute wry neck, however, it can reoccur.
Physiotherapy can help to manage symptoms and to speed up recovery. Your physiotherapist will perform a detailed assessment to determine the cause of your acute wry neck. Physiotherapy treatment will usually include a component of manual therapy (hands-on treatment) as well as gentle exercises.
If you are suffering from these symptoms, do not hesitate to book a session with one of our friendly physiotherapists. If you have any further questions, please contact us.
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