About acute torticollis and our treatment for it

Acute torticollis summary

Torticollis translates to ‘twisted neck’, and the sudden onset of this is known as acute torticollis; a common cause of neck pain or stiff neck. Generally this is a condition sufferers suddenly wake up with – for no apparent reason. It responds well to painkillers and gentle exercise, and typically improves over a number of days.

We treat a wide range of conditions and get long lasting results.

...in Physio clinics across Slough, Bracknell, Windsor and Reading

What is acute torticollis?
Acute torticollis is sudden and comes on for no apparent reason, causing severe neck pain. It has long been considered that this condition may come on after the neck has been exposed to very cold temperatures or unusual postures. The sufferer often has difficulty moving the neck due to intense pain, which can spread to the head or shoulders in some cases. Further investigations are usually not required.
What are the symptoms of acute torticollis?

Typically, the symptoms come from nowhere and literally arrive overnight. It can occur in individuals of any age, with no previous history of neck pain. A clinician can usually identify muscle spasms on one side of the neck which cause pain when the neck is moved.

How long will my symptoms last?

The pain should generally ease within 24 – 48 hours. The condition responds well to painkillers and gentle exercise, returning the neck to normal within a few days.

What is the cause of acute torticollis?

As discussed earlier, the causes are generally unknown. Typically, there is no obvious injury as such, although it has been suggested that minor muscle or ligament sprain may be the cause, due to unusual positions of the neck, lack of neck support, poor posture, carrying heavy loads, or exposing muscles to the cold.

What is the treatment for acute torticollis?

The aims of treatment are to relieve pain and reduce stiffness, increasing the neck movement to eventually gain a normal range of movement. Exercise, heat treatments, postural advice and pain management are the most important parts of the treatment process.

A soft collar may be advised to wear to decrease further muscle spasm. It is important to exercise the neck and keep active, even when the neck appears to be extremely painful – do not let the neck become stiff as this will make the condition worse.

Gradually increasing the movement of the neck can be achieved with neck rotations on a regular basis. If the pain becomes more severe or other symptoms develop, you should seek advice from a clinician. Likewise, if you feel dizzy or experience blackouts, then you should seek help.

Why is it important for me to do prescribed exercises?

Our bodies require a full range of movement at all times to allow our muscles and joints to move freely. Without this movement we experience pain and stiffness. By engaging in the prescribed exercises you will restore the neck to its normal state of movement.