Stiff Neck/Torticollis

What is it?

A stiff neck (also known as Torticollis) is an acute pain in the neck caused by a sudden movement or sustained strain on the neck. This sudden or prolonged overload on one area of the neck causes pain in the joint and surrounding structures eg nerves, ligaments and muscles.

What does it feel like?

  • It feels like your neck is stuck and you are unable to turn in one certain direction.
  • You may find it difficult to turn or flex your head to one or both sides, for example when turning around when reversing, or holding a telephone against your ear.
  • Your neck or even shoulder muscles may feel tender and sore to touch.
  • You may experience headaches and/or mild dizziness but if these symptoms persevere or worsen you should visit your doctor.
  • You may have to compensate by moving your whole body to turn due to your neck feeling stuck in one position.

What causes torticollis?

Torticollis can be caused by a quick, sudden movement when looking over one shoulder or sustaining an awkward neck position for too long eg falling asleep on the couch. The joints in your neck that join one vertebrae to another one below, called facet joints, stiffen and cause the surrounding muscles to go into spasm.

How is torticollis diagnosed?

Your Physiotherapist or Doctor can diagnose torticollis from your symptoms and from hearing about how the injury happened. Your therapist will gently feel your neck to determine the exact joint or joints that are effected and how the surrounding muscles have compensated.

How can Back in Action Physiotherapy help?

At Back in Action we will gently treat your neck muscles first and then do gentle mobilisations to start to free up your facets (neck joints). We will talk to you and listen to how your pain is affecting your everyday activities and help you determine exactly how you got torticollis. We can advise and educate you about appropriate stretches and prognosis for returning to normal activities. Painkillers and anti-inflammatories can help to relieve some pain and also help your therapist treat your neck more efficiently, so we recommend you see your local Pharmacist or Doctor regarding the best type for you.