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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Torticollis: Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Torticollis, or wry neck, is characterized by a painful tilted and twisted neck. The head of a person affected by the wry neck is typically tilted to one side and the chin to the other side.

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Experts suggest that this condition can happen at birth (congenital) or could be caused as a result of damage to the muscles in the neck or blood supply. Usually, the condition goes away without any treatment. Notwithstanding, there is a high chance of relapse.

Patients suffering from Torticollis typically experience debilitating pain, and they struggle with performing their daily tasks. Thankfully, therapies and medications can be administered to help relieve stiffness and pain.

Surgery can also be used to correct the painful condition. However, it would be best to start treatment sooner, especially if the affected person is a child.


Torticollis can be inherited and can develop even from the womb. A baby can become affected if the head is positioned wrongly. It can also occur if there is damage to the muscle or insufficient blood supply to the neck.

While the exact cause of wry neck is still unknown, a person can develop the condition after a nerve or muscle injury. Themis is commonly known as idiopathic torticollis.

Types of torticollis

Fixed torticollis

Fixed torticollis is also referred to as permanent torticollis or acute torticollis. This level of complication is usually as a result of issues with bone or muscular structure.

Temporary torticollis

Temporary torticollis usually disappears after a day or two. Some of the factors that may trigger it include:

Muscular torticollis

This is the most prevalent type of fixed wry neck, and it could result from scarring or tight muscles on either side of the neck.

Cervical dystonia

This rare condition is sometimes called spasmodic torticollis. The disorder can cause contractions in the neck muscles, which can lead to uncontrollable spasms. A person with cervical dystonia can have their head-turning or twist painfully to one corner.

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The turn or twist may also cause the neck to tilt forward or backward. Sometimes the condition may go away without any form of treatment, but it is possible that it may reoccur later.

Cervical dystonia can affect anyone, but it is commonly diagnosed in individuals between the ages of 40 – 60. The condition is also more prevalent in women than in men.

Klippel-Feil syndrome

Another uncommon form of wey neck is Klippel-Feil syndrome. It is a congenital condition that occurs when the bone structure in a baby’s neck is not formed correctly.

This could be a result of the fusion between two neck vertebrae, and children who suffer from this condition have complications with their vision and hearing.


People with torticollis may experience symptoms of the condition slowly. With time, the condition may become worse, and some of the symptoms could include:

  • A headache
  • Stiffness and pain in the neck
  • Swelling in the neck muscle
  • Difficultly moving the head naturally
  • One shoulder higher than the other
  • Tilting of the chin to one position

The faces of a child with congenital torticollis May appear unbalanced and flattened. They may also have complications with their motor skills or issues with their vision and hearing.


Your healthcare provider may have to conduct a physical examination and go through your medical history. You would also be required to talk about any trauma to the neck area if any.

Several types of exams may also be carried out to determine the cause of the condition. One of them may include an EMG (electromyogram), which is used in measuring the electrical activities in the muscles. It can be used to detect what areas of the muscles are affected.

Imaging tests like MRI scans and X-rays can also be utilized to detect structural complications that might be causing any symptoms.


There is presently no known way of preventing torticollis. Notwithstanding, immediate treatment is advised to manage further complications.

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Congenital forms of the condition can be improved by exercising the neck muscles.

There is a high success rate if this exercise is incorporated within a few months after birth. Patients may have to resolve to surgery if treatment isn’t working. Complications of the wry neck can be managed by doctors according to what causes it in the first place.

Treatments option for Torticollis may include:

Some method of surgery that is recommended may include:

  • Fusing unusual vertebrae
  • Extending neck muscles
  • Cutting muscles or nerves
  • Incorporating deep brain stimulation to disrupt nerve signals. This is only used in the most chronic cases of cervical dystonia.

Medications can also be used, and some of them include:

  • Pain-relieving meds
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Botulinum toxin
  • Drugs used in the treatment of tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease

Coping with torticollis

Wry neck generated by an illness or minor injury is possibly temporary and treatable. Nevertheless, congenital and more extreme forms of the wry neck can lead to long-term health challenges.

Some of the complications associated with the wry neck can include any of the following:

  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Difficultly driving
  • Constant pain
  • Difficultly socializing
  • Issues performing regular tasks
  • Swelling around the neck muscles
  • Neurological discomfort

Correcting wry neck is easier in babies and young children, and the earlier the condition is managed, the better.

You may have to get help from a support group if the condition is proving difficult to treat. Your healthcare provider or healthcare facility may supply you with information about support groups near you.

It may help to keep in touch with other individuals living with wry neck or conditions that are similar.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Oluwafemi Michael
Oluwafemi Michael is an online Mental Health Therapist, Advocate for Mental Health Awareness, a programmer, and also a content creator from Edo state, Akoko-Edo LG.
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