Torticollis (Wryneck)

The Facts On Torticollis

Torticollis, or wry neck, can cause tremendous neck pain and affects about 1 out of 10,000 people. This is a painful disorder that occurs in the neck and it tends to affect individuals between 30 and 60 years of age and more women than men.

This condition generally affects the muscles on one side of the neck and can involve an occasional or a constant spasm that is very painful. When torticollis strikes, the individual may find that they are forced to rotate and tilt their head to the back, to the side or forward. Depending on the individual, they may find the pain is much worse when they stand, walk or sit.

Causes Of Torticollis

There is no one definitive cause of torticollis. There are many causes such as:

  • Nervous system infections;
  • Hyperthyroidism;
  • Neck tumours;
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • WAbnormal facial movements that result from the use of antipsychotic medications; or
  • Inherited.

Although not proven, some health professionals feel that torticollis can worsen if the individual has emotional difficulties. Also, if torticollis occurs without a known cause then it is referred to as idiopathic torticollis.

On occasion, newborn babies have been known to develop a congenital form of torticollis because some deliveries are difficult and can cause damage to neck muscles. Older children have been known to suffer from torticollis also as a result of an imbalance of the eye muscle. Also, muscle or bone deformities in the upper spinal area can cause torticollis in children.

Symptoms Of Torticollis

The one for sure symptom that you may have torticollis is if you experience acute, painful muscle spasms on one side of your neck. This pain can happen suddenly and be ongoing for some time or it can occur occasionally. When experiencing this pain, your head will no doubt feel forced to tilt in one particular direction and possibly rotate depending on which neck muscles are affected. On occasion, individuals with torticollis also experience muscle spasms in other areas of their head including the face, jaw, eyelids and even in one or both hands.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Head tremor
  • Shoulder becomes higher on one side of the body

More often than not, those who suffer with torticollis experience spasms without any warning and they usually strike only while awake.

There are mild cases as well as severe cases of torticollis. Some patients find that without adequate care, torticollis can worsen then stabilize. For some individuals, torticollis can be a lifelong condition and in very severe cases, it can result in deformities to the posture.

Diagnosing And Treating Torticollis

In order to diagnose torticollis, a health professional will ask detailed questions about previous neck problems as well as past injuries. Depending on the situation, an electromyogram (EMG) may be able to diagnose. If not, then computed tomography (CT) scans may be required, or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), or an x-ray. This will aid in discovering the specific causes of the neck spasms. A routine physical examination can determine if there is neck muscle damage in infants and children.

Richmond Hill massage therapy at Chiro-Med Rehab Centre has helped clients who suffered from torticollis. Torticollis can be treated when the cause has been pinpointed.

Physical therapy and massage are techniques that help in alleviating painful spasms. One method of massage, for example, that has helped is when slight pressure is applied to the jaw in a specific manner. Only when physical therapy and massage techniques do not work are more invasive methods suggested to treat torticollis. Some of these methods include a variety of medications, and sometimes surgery. Nerves that are responsible for the spasms in the affected area are surgically removed. Surgery should always be the very last option.

Infants with congenital torticollis are treated with intensive physical therapy to stretch damaged muscles and this should commence within the first year of life. Therapy needs to start as soon as possible because should it be unsuccessful or if it is too late, surgery may be required to repair the child's neck muscles.

March 10, 2014
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