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Torticollis – Neck Pain

Torticollis (latin for twisted and neck) is a condition whereby the head adopts an abnormal position either due to a pain event or a different condition of some kind. Torticollis is only a symptom and there are a large number of potential causes, many of them medical. A muscle or number of muscles in the neck contract involuntarily and pull the head into an abnormal position.

Other names for this condition include spasmodic torticollis, torsion dystonia, cervical dystonia, wry neck and acute wryneck. Further resources on neck pain can be found at Arthritis Research UK with a symptom checker at

However the most common cause of torticollis is acquired from cervical spine neck pain, either from a sudden turn of the neck resulting in acute neck pain or after waking up with neck pain and stiffness generally assumed to be from “sleeping awkwardly”.

Symptoms of torticollis neck pain include neck and upper back pain, a stiff neck, continuously contracted muscles which can be easily felt and an abnormal head position.

Neck pain relief can be achieved from rest, painkillers, heat and gentle movements, with the problem usually settling down in a few days to a week. If the problem persists then a physiotherapist can give neck exercises for neck pain or use other techniques such as mobilisations to improve ranges of movement.

Back pain can be related to poor posture maintained for too long and this can lead to poor posture in the neck and upper back region also, with correction of back posture improving the situation in the neck.

Sleeping is a problem for many people with anything more than very mild neck pain, so the matter of pillows for neck pain almost always comes up. A physio can advise on the best pillow for neck pain but the general principle is to keep the neck in “neutral position” where it is neither tilted to the one side or the other, a bit like the head is kept in normal standing.

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