A wry neck is the term given to a presentation of insidious onset of neck pain and stiffness. Wry necks can cause severe pain without any obvious mechanism of injury. You will often have pain on one side of your neck and the inability to turn your neck in one direction. An acute wry neck is used to describe when the condition has come on quickly (commonly overnight).
Whilst the cause is relatively unknown, findings suggest the facet joints along the side of the neck can become “locked” causing spasm and pain. Facet joints are found along the back aspect of your spinal vertebrae. They allow, guide and limit the movements of the neck. Occasionally facet joints can become stiff through traumatic injury, arthritis or simply get stuck at an extreme of movement.
When experiencing an acute wry neck you will commonly report a “crick” in your neck, you may feel like you have “slept funny” or it might resemble what you perceive to be a “ a pinched nerve”. Most often this presentation will last 10-14 days. If the neck is managed poorly the pain can last longer than 2 weeks, however most people do eventually fully recover. A full recovery can be obtained more quickly through physiotherapy. In particular joint mobilisation, massage, dry needling to ease the initial pain and increase range of motion. Then biomechanical strengthening and realignment exercises to avoid future reoccurrences.