Has Torticollis Got Your Neck Stuck In a Rut?
Torticollis is also known as “wry neck.” Torticollis can be acute or chronic. Either way it’s a pain in the neck! Some people describe torticollis like having a “charlie horse” in your neck. If you’ve ever woken up and you can’t turn your head without severe pain, and it’s stuck in a tilted and twisted position; you know exactly what a torticollis is. Perhaps you spent the day outdoors on a windy and cold day. Maybe you left the window of your bedroom open on a cool night. Sleeping “wrong” (sleeping in an awkward position, like on a couch or with a bad pillow) can be the culprit. Torticollis can also be the result of a neck injury such as whiplash.
(Click HERE to learn more about Whiplash Injuries)
Torticollis literally means "twisted neck" in Latin. Basically torticollis is a painful spasm of the Sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM) in the neck. While it is usually temporary, it can typically last a couple of weeks. What I’ve described above is classified as Acute Torticollis. The sypmtoms include: neck and shoulder pain, with your neck stuck in a twisted and tilted position. Trauma to the neck is a common cause of torticollis. There are other known causes including tumors, infections, anti-psychotic medications, vision problems, and various rare and unknown causes.
This is often considered a genetic condition resulting in “wry neck” in babies. The cause is considered to be uncertain. Some doctors (I am one of them) think that it is not genetic, but rather acquired during the birth process. Research has demonstrated that twisting of the neck during the birth process may cause tiny, undetected misalignment of the Atlas Vertebra, the first bone of the neck at the base of the skull. This may cause nerve impingement (“pinched nerve”) causing a muscle to abnormally contract, resulting in torticollis.
Treatment for torticollis
Torticollis is a condition of the Neuromusculoskeletal system. In other words, your nerves, muscles and bones. Treatment philosophies vary of course, from doctor to doctor. Pain-relieving medication is commonly prescribed, along with heat treatments, muscle relaxers, and ointments. In my practice I successfully utilize one or more of the following drugless procedures:
Atlas Orthogonal spinal treatment, Cold Laser Therapy, Auricular Therapy (a derivative of acupuncture performed without needles), Kinesio-tape and some manual and electrical therapies. Even with these effective treatments, acute torticollis may still take a few days to go away. I wish every patient’s improvements were instant!
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- Dr. Donald Liebell