Have you ever just woke up with neck pain? Well you’re not alone. Up to 75% of the general population suffer with an episode of neck pain once in their lives.
Usually it comes on suddenly, from some non-traumatic event causing severe pain and stiffness of the neck. Which can be quite debilitating. Often occurring when waking up, if the head has been held in a prolonged position or turning the head quickly in a particular direction.
This can be particularly concerning when not being able function with your neck the normal way. The reassuring news is that it can be treated with physio and resolved using the right type of treatment, in a short period of time.
Wry Neck Symptoms
- Neck stiffness – Your range of movement becomes severely limited. Usually locked up away from the site of pain.
- Pain – Extreme pain localised to the centre or side of the affected area. Often radiates into the shoulder.
- Muscle spasm – The injury usually leads to muscle spasm of the surrounding neck muscles and causes further restriction in neck movement.
Causes of Wry Neck
There are several theories of what causes a wry neck. The most common one being the small facet joints (two on each side of the vertebra) become irritated or injured when held in a prolonged position or moved quickly. This causes the increased pain, movement restrictions and muscle guarding.
The other cause of a wry neck is an injury to the disc. Whether it be a bulge or strain of the disc wall, it can cause inflammation and place pressure on nerves that branch out of the neck. This may result in pain that radiates down the arm or cause altered sensation. If you experience this altered sensation it is important to seek professional advice. Discogenic neck pain might take longer to recover than a facet, but still responds well to physiotherapy.
The good news is that a wry neck can be treated conservatively with physiotherapy treatment techniques and exercise. Physiotherapy can offer manual therapy techniques to loosen the stiff joints and soft tissue release for the muscle spasm. Dry needling may also help with reducing the muscle spasm and strapping can help during the acute pain.
Once the pain has gone and movement has returned, it will be important to consider prevention in the future. Strengthening and postural correction exercises for the neck, along with advice on ergonomics for your work environment may be needed.
Ideally seek treatment within the first 24 hours to start with the right advice for dealing with this injury. After a thorough assessment you will receive the best treatment and appropriate exercises to help you recover from your neck pain.