Conditions & Treatments

Torticollis (Wryneck)

Torticollis, also known as wryneck, is a twisting of the neck that causes the head to rotate and tilt at an odd angle.

Torticollis (Wryneck)

What is torticollis?

Torticollis, also known as wryneck, is a twisting of the neck that causes the head to rotate and tilt at an odd angle.

What causes torticollis?

The exact cause of torticollis is unknown.

Congenital muscular torticollis is more likely to occur in firstborn children. This may also be accompanied by a congenital hip dislocation. The cause is likely from intrauterine positioning resulting in injury to the neck muscles.

Acquired torticollis may be caused by irritation to the cervical ligaments from a viral infection, trauma, or vigorous movement. Additional causes may include:

  • Sleeping in an awkward position

  • Anxiety

  • Neck muscle injury at birth

  • Burn injury

  • Any injury that causes heavy scarring and skin shrinkage

  • Neck muscle spasm

Secondary causes may include:

  • Slipped facets (two small joints on the side of the spine)

  • Herniated disk

  • Viral or bacterial infection

What are the symptoms of torticollis?

The following are the most common symptoms of torticollis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Neck muscle pain or pain down the spine

  • Inability to turn the head, usually holding it twisted to one side

  • Spasm of the neck muscles

  • Awkward position of the chin

The symptoms of torticollis may resemble other conditions and medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is torticollis diagnosed?

Diagnosis of torticollis usually is confirmed with a medical history and physical examination.

What is the treatment for torticollis?

Specific treatment for torticollis will be determined by your physician based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Cervical collar

  • Heat therapy

  • Ultrasound therapy

  • Physical therapy

  • Surgery

  • Botox injections

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Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

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