Torticollis is characterized by an involuntary contraction of the neck muscles. As they contract, the muscles cause the head to turn and twist in a painful position, resulting in a decreased range of motion. Torticollis is usually more prominent on one side of the neck than the other.
Torticollis is usually the result of a minor neck injury that has simply irritated the cervical nerves. To protect itself, the body responds by telling the muscles that are controlled by the injured nerves to contract. Torticollis may be caused by an awkward sleeping position, a sports-related injury, unusual physical exertion or strain at work or while working out or a car accident.
The symptoms associated with torticollis include an unusual position of the head, a reduced range of motion and pain resulting from the muscle contractions. The pain associated with torticollis appears suddenly.
Rest and heat relieve the pain associated with torticollis. A hot-water bottle, a warm pad or a scarf can be used to provide heat to the affected area. A cervical collar (rigid neck brace made of foam) should only be used for short periods (max. 48 hours) and only when recommended by a physician.
The application of a topical analgesic (product applied to the skin) that contains ingredients that make the skin feel hot or cold, may provide some pain relief. The use of medications such a muscle relaxants, pain relievers or anti-inflammatories may also help alleviate any related pain. These nonprescription products are available at your local pharmacy. See your pharmacist for more information.
Consult a physician if your torticollis is accompanied by headache, fever, vertigo, nausea or if it is recurring.