Neck Spasm

Neck muscle spasm occurs when the neck remains persistently tilted in one direction.  It can result from trauma like whiplash, but also from any strains or sprains,  The sprain or strain may have been a minor one a few days before (perhaps simply a rapid twist or turn), so the person doesn’t remember it. There are also other uncommon causes, some serious, which weโ€™ll touch on below.  A common term for the condition is โ€œWry Neck;โ€ in medical-speak, โ€œTorticollisโ€ or โ€œCervical Dystonia.โ€

Similar spasm can happen in any muscle, but the neck is particularly prone because its muscles never relax, since their job is to hold the head up. The word โ€œspasmโ€ here refers to constant low-grade muscle contractions.ย  It is not the same as โ€œspasticityโ€ occurring from brain or spinal cord disease.

Most cases of neck muscle spasm resolve on their own in days or maybe weeks. Pain medicines are useful in the meantime, as can applying heat (or ice, or ice and then heat; everyone responds differently).ย  Physical therapy can help for cases slow to resolve.ย  Neck collars may prevent the body from adjusting the way it should, and actually retard healing.ย  As with many injuries, ongoing pain is not uncommon if a lawsuit is pending, ย This does not represent โ€œfaking it,โ€ but rather subconscious psychological mechanisms.

Rare conditions can cause Torticollis.  These include:

  • serious throat diseases
  • spine fractures
  • herniated disks or spinal cord disease
  • brain tumors
  • psychiatric medications (or others which are chemically similar)
  • Parkinsonโ€™s or Multiple Sclerosis (already diagnosed)

Children have their own set of conditions, including Congenital Torticollis (conditions from birth), certain eye conditions, and certain spinal abnormalities.

Acute torticollis may be an emergency if thereโ€™s a fever, drooling, possibility of a broken neck (from typical trauma), or abnormal neurological exam suggesting brain or spinal tumors.

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