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Whats gone A..wry?

Wry neck, torticollis or simply a neck that cannot move and feels locked in place.

There is a torticollis that is present from birth (congenital) but today I will be discussing wry neck that suddenly appears.

What is wry neck

Wry neck is where your head tilts to one side at an angle or your head is turned to a side and is extremely painful to straighten or turn to opposite side. The neck will feel locked into this position, usually it is not painful to move further into the locked position but painful to move head to the correct position.

Chinese Medicine

We see this as a form of stagnation, meaning that the muscles, ligaments have seized or spasmed and is restricting the blood flow to the area, this creates the pain. It can be viewed in three categories

1. External pathogen attack (i.e you slept with the window open and have gotten a chill) this is a sudden onset.

2. Weak constitution, this is for the patients that have frequent wry necks so we would need to also treat the underlying cause of deficiency to stop further attacks.

3. Poor blood circulation, this is simply the soft tissue around the neck and upper shoulders have restricted the blood flow (think about all those tight neck and shoulders we now have due to technology and poor posture)

Western Medicine

Wry neck falls into the "unsure why the body is doing this" but western diagnosis proposes two mechanisms.

Facet Joint This is where the facet joints mainly in the upper cervical spine have ‘locked’. The thinking is that the small articular cartilage between the facets have become entrapped by a sudden movement.

Intervertebral Disc Dysfunction Discogenic wry neck is more common in the older generations due to degenerative disc disease. It can bulge or protruding into the spinal canal and compressing the surrounding tissues.

What makes people seek treatment?


PAIN : this condition is very painful.

Also, I often see in clinic more people with heads stuck to the left, mainly because this restriction of movement they cannot look right when driving so they seek help quickly.

Who do I see with this?

I see farmers just after sowing or harvesting (sometimes in the middle in bad cases) …. They often are driving over bumpy ground while turning or twisting themselves to look backwards.

Women who flick their head forwards to blow dry their hair underneath, when they flick back is when wry neck occurs.

I see some kids — mostly very active kids, they tend to wake up with it.

What can I do to help you?

Before you come in to Body and Spine Solutions. You can keep your neck warm - Wrap yourself up in a scarf. Apply a liniment for heat.

I will ‘unlock’ the neck by using a Sotai technique. Sotai is the movement of the body away from pain to ease the pain. Once the neck is ‘unlocked’ and you have movement and are out of the acute pain than I will use a mixture of acupuncture and massage.

Acupuncture is fantastic at relaxing the muscles and generating blood flow back to the restricted area followed by gentle massage to the neck and shoulders, this includes the Trapezius, rhomboids, scalene and smaller ligaments surrounding the area.

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