I Woke Up This Morning and I Can’t Move My Neck!

Ever wake up with extreme neck pain?

Well if you have, I’m sure you have felt like your neck was stuck, or worse yet, it actually was stuck. When it feels this way, obviously something is going on that shouldn’t be going on, and if you’ve ever felt this way, you know how bad it can get.

So what’s the deal? How can you go to bed one night seemingly fine, and wake up the next morning all locked up, not being able to move? How can this be? Did I sleep in the wrong position?

Usually a lot of questions arise when I consult with a patient who comes in to see me with this type of pain. The main consistent historical finding, or what the patient relates to me is that “it just came out of nowhere”. When this type of unexpected neck pain occurs, when the individual is unable to move their neck when they wake up in the morning, the most common diagnosis is known as “Torticollis”.

Torticollis comes from the Latin words of “torti” which means “twisted” and “collis” which means “neck”. So the words combined literally mean “twisted neck”. Which pretty much sums up the way it looks, and certainly the way it feels.

Another term for this condition is something known as “wry neck”. Basically it is similar to a really bad muscle spasm, almost similar to the sensation of a “Charlie-horse”, but in the case of Torticollis, it occurs in the neck.

Another historical finding, or what the patient relates to me, is the fact that they awoke with it in the morning after sleeping with the air conditioner or cold air blowing in the room in which they were sleeping. Often times as well, you may have just finished having a cold, or flu virus. Lastly, trauma such as a motor vehicle accident may cause a Torticollis as well.

Like I said earlier though, many times torticollis patients don’t really know why or what caused this condition, i.e., they really didn’t do anything to get this, or deserve this.The torticollis is characterized by very sharp pain and spasms, and an inability to move the neck at all, or if you do try to move it, extremely sharp pain is accompanied.

This sharp pain can be extremely limiting, from your day to day activities, as well as your ability to be productive and perform your job.

If you don’t do anything at all, torticollis and the extreme neck pain will ultimately improve over a 2 week period. In my practice, and with chiropractic in general, Torticollis will resolve over a couple of days. If you happen to get better after one or two days (hopefully) without doing anything at all, then you probably didn’t have torticollis.

In fact, I often see patients who have never been to the chiropractor before, because they would rather try to end their pain quickly vs waiting it out over a period of 2 weeks. In this situation, they are so desperate, desperate to resume their fun activities, to just going back to work, or feeling like their old self.

Of course taking prescriptive pain medication is always an option, but many of my patients have the attitude of “been there done that”, they are tired of the way that that makes them feel.

Unfortunately, sometimes torticollis can last longer then a month, and in rare cases even longer, without treatment. So I would strongly recommend getting treatment ASAP.

The 3 most common finding of Torticollis are:

1. spasms of the neck muscles

2. Shoulder, side of the neck, upper back, and neck pain.

3. Neck being twisted to one side of the other, and feeling stuck in this position.

So what are the best solutions for Torticollis pain relief?

Well, ideally not getting in the first place right?

I say that half jokingly, but truthfully as well.

Like anything, prevention is the best medicine, but unfortunately, in the real world, prevention is really hard to sell. Having great posture, great muscle balance, flexibility, endurance, and strength are certainly great prophalactic variables for avoiding torticollis in the first place.

Getting regular chiropractic care is a sure way to avoid ever having acute torticollis as well. But if you happen to be in a full blown episode of acute torticollis, analgesics do help immensely, because a lot the pain is caused from the muscles being in spasms.