Acute Cervical Torticollis
Torticollis is a term used to describe a handful of conditions affecting the neck. They look similar but have different causes. Torticollis typically involves a tilt of the head, reduced range of motion and sharp pain in the back of the neck. Often the patient can turn their head one way, with limitation and have restricted lateral flexion as well.
There are several causes of torticollis. The vast majority of the cases seen in chiropractic offices have a minor inconclusive histories. Most often the patient was engaged in some atypical physical activity and suffered no noteworthy injury. Two days later, they wake up with a stiff neck. Our office has also had many patients report sleeping postures as the culprit, most commonly taking a nap on the couch.
The injury tends to be in the facet joints of the neck. The facet joint guides and directs movement for the spinal bones. These joints have a membrane, or sack, which surrounds the joint and bathes the joint in a lubricating solution (called the joint capsule). If the joint surfaces or capsule becomes irritated, the sack fills with an excessive amount of fluid. This extra fluid pressure causes pain whenever the neck moves, and the joint configuration is altered.
The best treatment for this is light mobilization of the joint (by a chiropractor), inflammation reducing therapies (like ultrasound, or pulsed EMS), and topical ice application.
If left untreated the condition typically resolves on its own in about 1 to 4 weeks. But in today’s busy world, who has 4 weeks to wait. Remember, if you have torticollis, with restricted range of motion, you should not be driving your car. To be safe in your vehicle, you must have full range of motion in order to turn your neck to check blind-spots and clearly see while backing-up. If you can’t turn your head, you are at increased risk of causing an accident.
Our office has been successfully treating the various types of torticollis since 1995. Please call for an evaluation.