Acute Wry Neck

What is it?

An acute wry neck is the sudden onset of neck pain accompanied by spasm of the neck muscles. 

The main symptom is pain localised to one side of the neck. The pain can be referred to the head or shoulder region. The neck feels “stuck” in one position and attempted movements to free it usually results in sharp spasms of pain. Think of these joints becoming jammed or locked, rather like a door jamming on its hinge. The result is a painful, protective muscle spasm. 

Anyone can get a wry neck but it occurs typically in young people between 12 and 30 years of age. 

Mechanism of Injury

The precise cause of a Wry Neck is unknown. It may be the result of a minor injury or simply sleeping with the neck in an unusual position. 


For many years the theory was that a “slipped disc” caused a wry neck, but with the help of modern diagnostic imaging the cause seems to be an injury to the facet joints. Contrary to popular belief, a wry neck is not caused by a cold draught on the neck. 

Common Management Techniques

Physiotherapy uses a combination of massage, joint mobilisations, stretches and strengthening exercises.

You can do the following things at home:


Fortunately an acute Wry Neck is a transient and self-limiting condition that can recover in a matter of days. The Physiotherapists at Palms Physiotherapy are skilled in treating neck ailments and can effectively assist with pain relief and rapid recovery.