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Health Library


What Is Torticollis?

Torticollis, also known as wryneck, is a twisted neck in which the head is tilted to one side and the chin is turned to the other. Torticollis can be congenital (something you are born with), acquired (through trauma or injury), or spasmodic. Spasmodic torticollis, or cervical dystonia, is a neurological movement disorder caused by involuntary muscle contractions/or spasms of the neck muscles.

Symptoms include decreased range of motion of the head and neck, neck pain, and headaches.

Common Causes

Idiopathic or unknown cause (most cases)

Trauma or injury to the neck or spine


Certain drugs


History and physical exam by a qualified musculoskeletal expert is the first step. Imaging tests such as x-rays, MRI, or CT scan may be taken. An EMG may be performed to look at the electrical activity of the muscles.


Treatment is based on the underlying cause of the disorder. Physical therapy may be prescribed for stretching and positioning exercises. Cervical braces may be used to reduce dystonia. Your doctor might recommend medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxants. In some cases local injections of botulinum toxin are the treatment of choice. When conservative treatment fails, surgical treatment may be recommended.

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