Have you ever woken up with a sore neck? The pain is usually on one side of the neck, and you may even walk with your neck tilted towards the other side to ease the pain. There is often a lot of muscle spasm and the neck can be “locked up” with a considerable amount of pain. The condition is called an acute wry neck.
Wry necks can be quite debilitating at the time. It can also be quite frightening for people who have not had it before. The exact cause is quite controversial, but the current theory is that one or two of the joints of the neck have stiffened up, probably from an awkward sleeping position overnight. They are often described by others as the neck being out of alignment, or a slipped disc, but this is usually an exaggeration. The condition will improve slowly over the next few days, and most people make a recovery within a few weeks. However, like the majority of spinal problems, it often re-occurs.
Physiotherapy treatment can assist with a more rapid recovery, as the pain can be quite severe and can result in time off work. Manual mobilisation of the restricted joints can help to ease the stiffness quicker, and the results are often immediate. Manipulation can also be useful in some cases, but should never be applied forcefully if the muscle spasm is too severe. Heat, simple analgesia and anti-inflammatories can also help.