August Newsletter - Wry Neck

‘’Wry neck” describes a condition where the neck suddenly becomes stiff and painful. Turning the head to the side (usually one side more than the other) and looking up can cause a severe “catching” pain. The muscles on one or both sides of the neck may also go into spasm and pain may be felt from the base of the skull right down to the shoulder blade and outwards to the top of the shoulder.

There are numerous causes, the most common being:

  • Poor sleeping posture.
  • A sudden flicking or jerking of the head
  • Viral Infection.
  • Exposure to cold breezes.

Research shows usually 3 physio treatments are needed to help most cases– yes, it's that quick! If treated immediately, the majority of wry necks respond exceptionally well with just 3-4 days of treatment. Treatment commonly involves joint mobilisations (no cracking – this usually makes it worse) and heat are applied to loosen the neck joints and reduce the pain and muscle spasm. Research shows ‘’cracking’’ necks switches off local muscles and makes necks more unstable/weaker.


  • Keep warm! Make sure you’re rugged up when you go outside
  • Use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel or hot showers for pain relief.
  • Regularly and gently movement of your neck- within the limit of pain.
  • No neck circles, just side to side, and up and down. Circles can impinge/crimp your vertebral artery, especially as we get older, the neck joints get smaller and there is less room for the arteries and nerves.
  • Take pain medication if your pain is severe, i.e. over 4/10 on the pain scale.
  • Don’t sit or lie with your neck in awkward positions, i.e. don’t fall asleep on the couch.

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