Torticollis: a painful and and stiff neck

What is Torticollis?

In normal simple terms Torticollis means twisted neck, also know as wry neck by many. It is a condition where the neck is stuck in an abnormal and asymmetrical position.


Inherited– you are born with it or it is in your genes.

Idiopathic- where there is no known cause as to why it occurs.

Congenital– where it is present from birth- reasons for this are unclear but it can be due to damage to the neck muscles and blood vessels while giving birth.

Acquired– Can occur due to damage to nervous system, spine or muscles. It can pass on its own however can often reccur.

When it is aquired, It is a spontaneously occurring condition which can last for few weeks before it will pass by it self. Usually some neck muscle tends to become stiff this can occur due to: Unusual posture, cold, etc

Infection of the ear and infections to the back of the neck can be one cause

Use of certain drugs such as antipsychotics, antiemetics etc


  • Limited neck movement
  • Headache
  • Neck pain
  • One side of shoulder is higher than the other
  • Stiffness of the neck muscles


Usually physical non invasive tests which can be done by your physiotherapist includes are used to help diagnose torticollis, these include: 

  • Testing movement of the neck, done by noth the patient or by the therapist
  • Testing the length of the affected muscles
  • Palpation or feeling of the muscle fibres

Other tests done at the doctors may include

  • CT scan
  • EMG of the muscle
  • MRI



So what can we at Physio Savvy do to help you? Firstly we will be doing in depth testing to make sure it is torticollis before commencing treatment. The following treatment can be used to resolve the pain and stiffness:

  • Heat therapy
  • Cervical traction
  • Soft tissue releases
  • Positional release technique on the hardened muscle
  • Stretching
  • Home exercise program for stretching and strengthening
  • Advice to prevent it from recurring

There are certain medications which we can advise for you  (please check with your Doctor or Pharmacist for more information before taking any medication).

This can include:

Paracetamol at full strength is often sufficient. For an adult this is two 500 mg tablets, four times a day.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Some people find that these work better than paracetamol.

The best solution is to have you neck treated regularly (up to 3-4 times a week, depending on the severity) until there are strong signs of the condition being resolved. The aim in physiotherapy will be to resolve the muscle a joint stiffness and tightness that is causing the pain. This is safe both for adults and children and can help limit the use of medication. If you are tired of the pain in the neck come on down to Physio Savvy to get checked out today and let us help you.


idiopathic torticollis

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Karishma Jhaveri

Karishma Jhaveri

Physiotherapist at Physio Savvy
Karishma completed her Bachelors in Physiotherapy from Manipal, India and has also completed Mulligan therapy certificaion. In Manipal Hospital, she worked for 3 years in clinical placement under several areas including diabetic clinic, pediatric wards, burns ICU and cardiac ICU. She then continued working in Mumbai under the President of Indian Association of physiotherapy Dr Ali Irani. Her work also includes health surveys in India for WHO in rural parts near Manipal, and she has taken a special interest in working with children.
Karishma Jhaveri

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Posted in Musculoskeletal Disorders.