This is also referred to as a Wry neck and as a Chiropractor I see a reasonable number of these in practice.

Hi, this is Dr. Andrew Arnold from Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Ctr.

Torticollis in my experience, may affect all ages; from newborns to teens to the elderly. It’s like having a really bad muscle cramp in your neck, not fun!

So, what exactly is it and what can Chiro’s do to help?

Torticollis effects a muscle called the Sterno-cleido-mastoid or SCM. If you turn your head as if you’re trying to look over your shoulder, you’ll notice a ropey muscle pop out. You can grab it between your fingers. It runs from the back of your head to your collar bone.

Depending on whether one or both muscles are involves will determine how your head is positioned on presentation.

Think of a hamstring cramp. What’s the first thing you do? Stretch your leg right even if the pain is excruciating. Lengthening the muscle helps alleviate the cramp.

The problem with the SCM is it’s very hard to elongate the muscle. As a result, the cramp persists causing the muscle to twitch and swell.

There are many causes however, it is broadly categorized as congenital and acquired.

Congenital muscular torticollis

This is the most common and occurs at birth. Typically, it is due to the foetus being squashed in-utero or from a rigorous extraction by the obstetrician. The baby’s head / neck is noticeably distorted.

Acquired torticollis

External factors leading to torticollis include a multitude of things from tonsillitis, arthritis, enlarged glands, tooth abscess’s, ear infections etc.

In Chiropractic practice we see it associated with neck vertebrae dysfunction commonly known as spasmodic torticollis.

Occasionally we see it associated with balance issues such as vertigo. This is called trochlear torticollis and describes the neck and shoulder muscles working hard to maintain equilibrium.

Rare causes:

There are very rare causes which your practitioner must be aware of. These include:

  • Cranial nerve IV palsy
  • Spasmus nutans
  • Sandifer syndrome
  • Myasthenia gravis


In Chiropractic practice we want to deal with the muscle spasm and the vertebral joint fixation in a speedy way. Each mechanism effects the next.

We use a device called an activator / Neuro-mechanical adjusting instrument. The action is so fast it bypasses any guarding response thus enabling the Chiropractor to release the muscles and joints quickly and gently.

It is then a case of advising the correct stretches

Without treatment this condition can hang around for weeks however, with treatment ‘spasmodic torticollis’ responds well within a few days.

Talk to your Chiropractor for more information.

About the Author:

Dr. Andrew Arnold is a Chiropractor and the Million Dollar Wellness Mentor.

Founder: 12 Keys Wellness Practice Workshop, Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Centreand Million Dollar Wellness

Andrew is married to Dr. Linda Wilson, the Stress Specialist and has two children, Isaac and Bella. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Category: Chiropractor

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