Torticollis, sometimes described as wry neck, is a condition involving a twisted or tilted neck. This often results in a visible head tilt to one side while the chin tilts to the other side. The condition can be present at birth, or it can be acquired over time. Below, we take a closer look at the causes, symptoms and treatment options for torticollis in both children and adults.
Causes and Symptoms of Torticollis
As we noted above, torticollis can be an inherited condition that can be present at birth in infants. This can happen if your child’s head was in an awkward position in the womb, if there was damage to the neck muscles or a problem with the blood supply to the neck. In adults, torticollis can develop after a neck muscle injury or damage to the nervous system. It’s also worth noting that in both instances, the cause of torticollis can be undefined, which is known as idiopathic torticollis.
Symptoms of torticollis of the neck includes:
- Visible tilt of the head in one direction
- Inability to move your head normally
- Neck pain
- One shoulder that sits higher than the other
- Swollen neck muscles
Diagnosing and Treating Torticollis of the Neck
When you head into your doctor’s office or to a neck and spine specialist, they will begin by looking at your medical history and conducting a physical exam. They will be checking for swelling, a visible tilt to the head and neck, and they’ll also conduct some physical manipulation exercises to see how muscles response and if certain movements cause symptoms. If they need further assistance in the diagnostic process, they may confirm their suspicions with an X-ray, MRI or electromyogram. The X-ray and MRI will look for structural problems that might be causing torticollis, while an EMG will measure electrical activity in your neck muscles.
Treating the condition depends on the type of torticollis the doctor uncovers. Some people’s condition may be caused by muscle damage or bone structure, while others will be brought on by injury or genetics. In most cases, the sooner you seek active treatment, the better your neck will respond. Common treatment techniques include physical therapy, neck stretching, heat, massage, medications or neck braces.
In severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgery. During surgery a neurosurgeon will work on correcting the underlying issue, which may include fusing an abnormal vertebrae, lengthening neck muscles, or cutting nerves and muscles.
If you or your child are dealing with a crick in their neck, treat the condition head on. Reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today for more management strategies or to identify the underlying cause of your condition. Contact us today for more information.