Are you suffering from Wry Neck?

Acute Wry Neck

Neck pain can be caused by acute Wry Neck, which is a common injury to the cervical spine (neck). It is when you develop neck pain and stiffness with spasm of the surrounding neck and shoulder blade muscles. This causes pain and a reduced ability to move the neck through its full range. There are two types of Acute Wry Neck; Facet Wry Neck and Discogenic Wry Neck.


Facet Wry Neck

Neck Joint @ Bodyworks SubiacoFacet joints are located at the back of the cervical vertebrae and are where most of the movement between the two adjacent vertebrae occurs from. They are designed to allow a lot of movement in the neck so that we can rotate, side flex, flex and extend our cervical spines to allow us to perform our daily tasks. However, because they are so mobile, occasionally they can get stuck at the extremes of movement, and this is how a facet wry neck occurs.

Often patients will wake with a stiff and locked neck, having either slept on their neck in an odd position or having had a restless night, and thus causing the facet joint to get locked in an abnormal position.


Discogenic Wry Neck

Neck @ Bodyworks SubiacoThis type of wry neck involves the disc, the spongy shock absorber that lies between adjacent vertebrae. Often patients will experience muscle pain or tightness for a few days in lead up to the locked neck episode, and it is often accompanied by a history of unaccustomed activity. In this case the joints are not exactly locked, however the protective muscle spasm around the neck which occurs due to pain messages being sent out by the involved disc, cause a locked appearance as the muscles compress the joints.


How we can help

Whether you have a Facet or Discogenic Wry Neck, physiotherapy treatment can help relieve your pain and improve your function so that you can get back to moving normally as quickly as possible. Joint mobilisation techniques can be used to unlock the facet joints, and soft tissue mobilisation therapies such as massage and dry needling can be utilised to release the muscle spasm and compression of the joints.

Home exercises will also be prescribed to further release the spasm and improve function of the deep neck muscles to stabilise the cervical spine and prevent reoccurrence. Rehabilitation sessions at Bodyworks can also be helpful to prevent this from happening by improving the alignment of the cervical spine and increasing muscle control and strength around the joints.

If you ever find yourself with a locked or painful neck or if you have had this in the past and want to improve the function and posturing of your neck, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 08 9381 5565 to discuss further.


Shanmugam, S., & Mathias, L. (2017). Immediate Effects of Paraspinal Dry Needling in Patients with Acute Facet Joint Lock Induced Wry Neck. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR11(6), YM01–YM03.

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