Acute Torticollis – Pain in the Neck?
Acute neck pain may be commonly due to torticollis or “wry neck” which means a lateral deformity of the neck. It can be an acutely painful disorder due to the muscle spasm. The patient usually awakes with the problem, due to sleeping awkwardly, or it develops slowly over 1-2 hours after an injury to the neck.
The pain is usually confined to the neck, but it may also radiate down the arm or the upper back. The patient most often has their head tilted or side-bent to one side, usually away from the painful side, and so there is a loss of the normal range of movement in the neck. This condition most often occurs in the joints in the mid cervical spine, the most likely cause being a cervical facet joint restriction, and so movement of the neck is very painful and restricted.
How can your Osteopath help?
We see a lot of patients with acute injuries, and torticollis is a very common one. Patients are usually in a lot of pain due to the acute inflammation in the neck joints and due to the amount of muscle spasm in the neck and upper back musculature. Your Osteopath can help by reducing the muscle spasm in the area and by mobilising the joint. We can also help by stretching the neck muscles to help increase your range of movement. Your Osteopath may also recommend ice therapy to help reduce inflammation in the joints and some gentle exercises. Depending on the severity of the injury, it may take a few treatments to settle the muscle spasm and regain your normal range of movement and normal head posture.
Neck Related (Cervicogenic) Headaches
Neck related or “Cervicogenic” headache is a relatively common and surprisingly still controversial form of headache arising from structures in the neck. Osteopaths believe that the upper neck plays a frequent role in common headaches & migraines.
Statistics show that 2-3 of 1000 headaches are caused by a serious disorder. Therefore, before a headache is classified as “common”, a detailed and thorough history and physical examination of the patient are necessary which is taken by your Osteopath. If there is still any doubt, ancillary studies should be performed and advice from specialists sought.
As Osteopaths, there is often a spinal sign indicating the cervical/neck origin of a headache which is tenderness to palpation of the 2 nd & 3 rd vertebral joint on the affected side in the upper neck. In 20% of cases, that pain is on both sides.
Many people believe stress or psychological factors can set off these headaches. Often if the psychological factors are frequent in common headaches, they are perhaps sequelae or the icing on the cake to push that person over the threshold and trigger the headache. The primary or real cause of the headache is often cervical or neck related.
Your Osteopaths at HOC are trained for many years to be able to safely and effectively treat the prime causes of these headaches. Often the restrictions in the upper neck are chronic and relate back to history of trauma or long term sustained postural or occupational stress.
The actual primary joint problem can trigger intermittent spasm and inflammation which can the account for the transient nature f the headache. It will literally come and go according to how that whole upper neck environment is coping. If not coping many secondary symptoms can occur such as headaches. Clearly this is the dramatic symptom that then brings the patient in to be treated but the primary underlying issue in the neck has been there a lot longer.
So if you have had headaches for a long time and if taking medication is having little or temporary effect, then let your Osteopath try to treat the actual primary problem and give long term relief to increase your quality of life.