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What Is Wryneck?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
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Wryneck, formally known as torticollis, causes pain and stiffness in the neck. It is commonly caused by a spasm in the occipitalis, levator scapulae, or other muscles. A slipped facette, herniated disc, or viral or bacterial infection are also possible causes. The condition is typically not considered a major medical issue, but in some cases it can be a sign of a more serious problem.

Suffers often complain of neck and back pain. They will usually claim that they are unable to turn their heads. People inflicted with wryneck tend to hold their necks twisted to one side with their chins pointed in the opposite direction.

Some babies are born with wryneck. Poor positioning in the womb is often considered the cause when the condition occurs at birth. It can be an issue of great concern for new parents, but in most cases, if it is properly diagnosed, it is a temporary condition. When a baby’s wryneck is accompanied by a tumor in the affected muscle, the condition may persist for several months but can often be treated with physical therapy. There are some instances when torticollis may be more serious for babies and require specialized treatment.

The more common form of wryneck is acquired after birth. The condition can affect a person who is any age. It may appear gradually, from a sudden vigorous movement, or even while sleeping.

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A physician treating the condition may perform a nasopharyngeal exam and a basic neurologic exam. Treatment thereafter is usually fairly simple because the cause is merely a muscle spasm. When this is the case, a physician will likely tell a wryneck sufferer to apply heat to the area. The patient may also be advised to take an over-the-counter medication, such as aspirin or ibuprofen.

If the wryneck was caused by force that suggests other serious injuries, the physician may have to engage in more extensive procedures such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This may be required because force can result in the tearing of muscles or ligaments. In these cases, it may be necessary to brace the neck until the injury heals.

When there is suspicion that the condition is related to an infection, soft tissue lateral neck films and a complete blood count may be taken. Signs of infection can include fever, swollen tonsils, and pharyngitis. Wryneck induced by infection is typically treated with antibiotics when the infection is not severe. If it is severe, a surgical procedure may be necessary.

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Discuss this Article

indemnifyme
Post 2

@Azuza - A muscle spasm may be a "simple" problem but they can sure be painful! I had a muscle spasm in my neck (not wryneck) and I don't think I've ever been in more pain. I am surprised to learn how many different kinds of neck problems can be related to muscle spasms though.

Azuza
Post 1

I can't believe a simple muscle spasm could cause all that trouble! Although it must be a relief to have the symptoms explained so simply. Treating a muscle spasm is a lot easier than treating some other conditions!

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