When someone has a twisted neck and the head is tipped to one side while the chin is turned to the other, this is a condition known as torticollis. It can be an inherited condition, brought on as a result of certain changes in one’s genes, or it can be acquired, developing in response to damage to the nervous system or muscles. With this condition, the muscles of the neck are extended or twisted beyond their normal position. It can develop slowly over time if it is an inherited disorder, or it can be an acute condition brought on by injury or a negative reaction to certain medications.
When torticollis is the result of genetics, it is called spasmodic torticollis, and it usually presents initially as spasmodic between the ages of 31 and 50. If left untreated, it can become permanent.
Bending or twisting the neck too far can create acute torticollis. Bearing few symptoms, with this condition, the patient may appear uncomfortable and may hold her head straight or rotated to one side. There will be obvious pain when the head is moved towards the other side. The muscles on the painful side of the neck may be tender to the touch. A doctor should do an examination to rule out the possibility of a spinal cord injury.
Medications can play a contributing factor in torticollis. Illegal drugs, such as amphetamines and cocaine, as well as drugs like Compazine, Haldol, and Thorazine,can cause a lack of muscle control in the neck.
With torticollis, the patient may experience sudden and involuntary contractions of the face, neck, or back muscles. The head may tilt to one side and there may be noticeable deviation of the eyes and a protrusion of the tongue. In instances of spasmodic torticollis, the muscle contractions on one side of the neck are abnormal and the patient’s head will be turned to one side. In cases of acute torticollis, the patient will be unwilling to turn her head to one side or have her head turned away from the side that is painful.
For the most part, acute torticollis is not life-threatening. A doctor should be consulted within a day if there is continued muscle stiffness and pain.