Also Known As: Torticollis, wry neck, Aquired torticollis
Torticollis, or wry neck, is a stiff neck associated with muscle spasm, classically causing lateral flexion contracture of the cervical spine musculature (a condition in which the head is tilted to one side). The muscles affected are principally those supplied by the spinal accessory nerve.
Acquired torticollis occurs because of another problem and usually presents in previously normal children and adults.
- A self-limiting spontaneously occurring form of torticollis with one or more painful neck muscles is by far the most common ('stiff neck') and will pass spontaneously in 1–4 weeks. Usually the sternocleidomastoid muscle or the trapezius muscle is involved. Sometimes draughts, colds or unusual postures are implicated; however in many cases no clear cause is found. These episodes are rarely seen by doctors other than a family physician.
- Trauma to the neck can cause atlantoaxial rotatory subluxation, in which the two vertebrae closest to the skull slide with respect to each other, tearing stabilizing ligaments; this condition is treated with traction or chiropractic manipulation to reduce the subluxation. In rare cases, bracing may be used to support the neck until the ligamentous injury heals.
- Tumors of the skull base (posterior fossa tumors) can compress the nerve supply to the neck and cause torticollis, and these problems must be treated surgically.
- Infections in the posterior pharynx can irritate the nerves supplying the neck muscles and cause torticollis, and these infections may be treated with antibiotics if they are not too severe, but could require surgical debridement in intractable cases.
- Ear infections and surgical removal of the adenoids can cause an entity known as Grisel's syndrome, a subluxation of the upper cervical joints, mostly the atlantoaxial joint, due to inflammatory laxity of the ligaments caused by an infection. This bridge must either be broken through manipulation of the neck, or surgically resected.
- The use of certain drugs, such as antipsychotics, can cause torticollis.
- Antiemetics - Neuroleptic Class - Phenothiazines
- There are many other rare causes of torticollis