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What Is Acute Torticollis?

Ever Get a Charlie Horse in Your Neck?


Woman Rubbing Her Neck

Acute Torticollis, Painful Neck Muscle Spasms

Tom Le Goff / Getty Images

What is Acute Torticollis?

Torticollis comes from two Latin words: torti (twisted) and collis (neck). Acute torticollis is a condition sometimes called wry neck. It is a painful muscle spasm in the neck, similar to having a charlie horse in your leg. A person will often awaken with acute torticollis after spending the previous day outdoors in the wind or having slept with an open window that brought a cool draft into the bedroom. Acute torticollis is a temporary condition that normally takes approximately two weeks to resolve.

Pain is Your Body's Way of Communicating

Any time your body is experiencing pain or distress try to think of it an opportunity to become a more active caregiver of your needs. Pain is merely a communication tool the body uses to let you know something needs your attention. The acute attack of pain that is typical of torticollis is probably an indicator that you are in need of rest. Take this time to pamper yourself for a few days and allow your body's natural defenses to kick in. Get to bed early or indulge in a late afternoon power nap. As the spasms subside and the pain lessens consider getting a chiropractic examination. A spinal adjustment can be beneficial in returning you and your body back to state of well-being.

Acute Torticollis Symptoms

  • Muscle spasms
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Neck and spine contortion (neck twisted to right or left side of body)

Pain Relief Treatments for Acute Torticollis

  • Analgesics
  • Heat packs
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Rubs and ointments (Icy Hot, BioFreeze)
  • Massage with essential oils
  • Reiki
  • Sleep / Relax
  • Supportive cervical collar
  • Chiropractic neck and spinal adjustment
In addition to acute torticollis there is also a wry neck condition called Congenital Torticollis that affects newborns. Babies are born with this condition due to birth trauma or injury to their necks.
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