Quite often we will have patients present to our clinic here in Burlington with a stiff neck. Perhaps surprisingly, there is no history of trauma and no obvious reason for the neck to be so painful and stiff. In fact, more often than not the patient wakes up from their sleep with this condition. So what is it? What should the patient do?
Torticollis is a term used to describe a patient with a stiff, twisted neck. Often called wryneck, the age of the person and the specifics of their history are very important in diagnosing and subsequently treating this condition. For example, infants can present with an asymmetry in the head where the head is tilted to the side and “stuck” in that position. This can be related to trauma during the birthing process and can be linked to spasm or damage to the sternocleidomastoid muscle. This muscle essentially wraps around our neck and when shortened (in spasm) it can turn the head and limit movement. Although this condition affecting infants can be somewhat common, it’s not the focus of this blog entry. What we see more often at our chiropractic, physiotherapy and massage clinic in Burlington is a painful spasm of the neck muscles affecting adults. Again, this usually has no obvious causative factor and occurs when the patient wakes from sleep.
Often referred to as pseudo torticollis, the patient is unable to move their neck or head without pain. The head is usually not twisted, but rather fixed in a neutral position. As a practitioner, it is important to rule out various causes of this condition. Obviously trauma is on the top of the list, but other more central causes (infection of the central nervous system or conditions affecting the brain stem) are possible although rare. X-rays are usually not necessary. A thorough history and a careful examination can rule out rarer causes of this condition and allow the practitioner to begin treatment and provide the patient with appropriate strategies for managing their condition at home. Usually, the goal is to ensure that there is no instability in the area and rule out any neurological injury. Once this is determined, the typical advice is to not be afraid to move your neck. The recovery time is usually shortened when patients are encouraged to move the area.
There are many different treatment options for a stiff neck. Chiropractic, physiotherapy, massage therapy and athletic therapy are all health disciplines offered at our clinic in Burlington and are all great options for managing this condition. Specific techniques like active release, acupuncture, graston and laser therapy can also be helpful in alleviating the stiffness in the area and returning the patient to normal in a timely fashion. The choice of which treatment is “best” really depends on the person’s individual situation. Factors such as what has worked in the past for them, what they are comfortable or familiar with are examples of how we can choose the best strategy for each patient.
Looking for a chiropractic, physiotherapy, massage therapy or athletic therapy clinic in Burlington for your stiff neck? Give us a call, we can help!