Has this happened to YOU?
You wake up in the morning and can hardly turn your head, severe pain in your neck and perhaps shoulders and you have no idea why. You didn’t do anything differently yesterday, just woke up like this in the morning. And … it hurts!
Wry Neck happens as a result of shifting or turning the head too quickly (which can happen while we’re asleep). The Menisci between the vertebrae or joint surfaces in the neck becomes trapped during the turn and the joint locks. So why doesn’t it happen every night? It may be that you slept with a cool draft on your neck muscles (open window?) or lifted something the day before that created a small muscle spasm which was made worse while turning during the night.
Why write about this? I have clients that come to me with this condition quite often. The pain can be severe and perhaps not just in the neck, but in upper back and shoulders too. Some experience headache as well.
First step is to REST! I probably don’t need to say this because the pain is so severe it is difficult to move anyways, but remember that the muscle needs some time to heal and release the spasm.
While many therapists recommend putting ice on the area, I always recommend to work with what feels best to you. For myself, I find heat works better. So while resting be sure to have an ice or heat pack on the areas.
The next and most important thing is to get yourself in for a massage as soon as possible in order to loosen the spasm. A massage to the back, neck and shoulders often brings immediate relief. Massage for wry neck is wonderful! It loosens up the muscle spasm which encourages the joint to unlock and release the menisci. Sometimes it will take a couple of sessions to ease the spasm.
After the massage continue to “baby” your neck. Keep the area warm, soak in an Epsom salt bath and the next day, very gently, stretch the muscles in and around the area.