Have you ever woken with Stiff or Sore neck?

Posted on: Aug 1st, 2017 by The Physio Movement | Categories: Sports Medicine & Nutrition

Waking up with a Stiff and Sore Neck is often the onset of Wry Neck

One of the most common neck complaints in Physiotherapy and our Multidisciplinary health Clinic, is what we call an acute wry neck.

Have you ever woken up with a stiff and sore neck, which limits your necks ability to rotate to one direction, or most movements hurt like looking up or down? I’m sure you have, I know I have, it can be very concerning and sometimes disabling as the sufferer can experience constant severe pain with simple neck movements. However, have no fear as luckily wry neck treatment is normally very successful in a short-period of time!



The most common cause of acute wry neck is a locked facet joint. It presents as neck pain and stiffness which is often accompanied by spasm of the surrounding neck muscles. This causes the reduction in range of motion to the effected side. Facet joints are located at the back of your spinal column. These joints allow, guide and limit the movements of your neck. They are particularly important in rotation and extension based movements.


Onset of wry neck is usually sudden, particularly when waking with it. The cause may have included a restless night sleep, uncomfortable or poor pillow, poor sleeping posture, waking suddenly in the night (eg a noise) or simply unknown. In order for it to be classified as wry neck, you need to have the following symptoms:

Neck Pain – generally located in the middle or side of the neck that is affected. The onset of pain is sudden and the pain experienced does not extend beyond the shoulder joint.

Loss of movement – your neck may be generally fixed in an abnormal posture as you try to protect the effected area or due to pain – most commonly flexed forward and rotated away from the side of pain. In general all movements will aggravate the pain.

Neck Muscle spasm – this is a tightening of the associated neck muscles that further limit movement.



How is wry Neck Treated? 

After your Physiotherapist has assessed your neck and confirms which joints are locked and has ruled out other pathologies, they will utilise a range of low risk joint treatment techniques and soft tissue massage to normalise your facet joint function. Cervical manipulation or cracking of the joints is not recommended for this condition and can aggravate your condition further. The thoracic spine (region below neck) can also be treated which can give a great amount of relief and movement. Generally, an acute wry neck may take 1 week to recover fully, however, depending on the severity and other factors may take longer then this

If you do wake with a stiff and sore neck make sure you seek assistance from a Physiotherapist that day and tell them that you have these symptoms so we can fast track your appointment if possible, because the sooner you can be treated the faster you will return to your full function. Some things you can use when waiting to see a Physio include a hot shower and heat packs which can provide some relief with muscle spasm but this will not effect your facet joints.

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Written by Physiotherapist Zachary Park
Physiotherapy Townsville - The Physio Movement


     517 Flinders Street
Townsville City Qld 4810
     1300 TPM FIT or 4740 4516
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