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“I Can’t Turn My Head!”

In torticollis, a muscle spasm can pull your head to the side.

One day you may wake up and you are simply stuck to one side. “I can’t turn my head!” is the cry of many previously perfectly healthy patients that come in to Blue Heron Chiropractic. Typically, this is the consequence of a reactive muscle spasm that creates a condition called “Torticollis”or “wry neck”. “Wry” is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “twisted” or “mocking”, and so this mostly describes that, but leaves out the pan component. Often, pain spasms require someone to walk with their head tipped to one side, “stuck”, and unable to drive a car because they can’t turn. Sometimes Torticollis is recurrent and is the result of a problem, like a chronic strain or an arthritic presentation, other times it can be the result of a bad night on the couch or a workout with overstretching. Sometimes, it’s the result of a Whiplash after a car accidentThe good news is torticollis responds very well to therapies that we have ready for you at your appointment at Blue Heron Chiropractic. It does not necessarily “go away with time”  – make your appointment today. 

What happens with Torticollis?

Despite being the chief complaint, Torticollis may actually be a symptom rather than the main problem itself. In Torticollis, there may be an underlying joint segment that is inflamed or dysfunctional, maybe even sprained. There may be a muscle which is actually strained and torn; it might even be on the opposite side of your neck.  You may have a rib subluxation. Either way, signals are being sent to muscles in your neck to not allow relaxation, perhaps as a means of over-protecting an injury site. Since the muscle cannot relax, any attempt to “stretch through it” can produce acute pain and more spasm – even tearing.  There are several priorities here – first, to identify what caused this, such as falling asleep in the airplane seat without a headrest – and then to determine what structures are involved. Again, the muscle that is involved is not necessarily injured, but it is being told to contract and not relax. What structures are we protecting? Was this the result of a car accident or a work injury? Did you simply wake with pain on an otherwise relaxed weekend? We will identify the root cause.

How are we going to treat this?

This will depend on what we believe to be the root cause. We are going to take a good history and do a diagnostic exam. In most cases, assuming we don’t need an X-ray first to determine joint status or an MRI to look for a disc injury, we are going to start by treating the presenting issue – the uncontrolled muscle spasm. We will use physiotherapies like heat, electrical stimulation, massage and myofascial release to get this started. We may use therapeutic ultrasound for irritated joints. We may use a special manual muscle technique involving reciprocal contractions to relax the muscles on the opposite side. Typically, we will adjust areas around the injury region which is often where these muscles originate. We will not adjust into pain as this is almost always contraindicated; we may adjust other areas like a subluxated rib. What we will do is get the area ready to move, and when it is time, we will do it sequentially and gradually. We may also use Graston Myofascial Release or even Cold Laser to improve the response with mysofascial trigger points which will surely exist. We  get your range of motion right at the start and compare your results to the normal we want to achieve. Later on, we are going to clean up your range of motion. Exercises we give you will help you maintain your gains. We might discuss supplements or foods that are anti-inflammatories or even discuss muscle relaxants. 

Can I treat this one myself by stretching or rest?

We don’t think you should wait and see. People benefit from a good history and exam with diagnostics, followed by physical medicine like chiropractic manipulative therapy, physiotherapies, lifestyle advice, and exercise – as well as supplementation or medicines. Typically, “stretching” with Torticollis amounts to “forcing”.  Trying to stretch into the restricted zone can injure other structures and delay your recovery.  A muscle being told not to relax can tear – you are fighting yourself. This entire condition may have occurred as a result of an overstretch in the first place – never good.  You don’t have to wait,  but surely If you haven’t improved within 24 hours, you should probably be seen as cases of Torticollis can persist for weeks – that’s more pain than you need. And, as above, it might come right back if we have not identified or treated the source. We don’t recommend waiting this one out. 

Is Blue Heron Chiropractic masking for the COVID Pandemic at this time?

New variations of Covid are showing up every day. Since there are questions about immunity and  even the relative value of testing,  the Doctor is going to mask for your session.. Your mask is at your option.  We do this out of an abundance of caution; we don’t want to spread a community infection and we also want to be able to come to work to treat you.  Doctor Sibilla will be getting the newest vaccine as soon as it is available, along with his flu shot. Folks who are immune compromised or have “Long Covid” need special considerations, and we take care of them. A patient can wear their own mask at any time, and If you would like a mask and don’t have one, we can provide it.  If you have flu-like symptoms, are sneezing of coughing or blowing, we may provide you with a mask, so we can continue to serve you better. You can access Chiropractic safely and securely at Blue Heron Chiropractic & Healing Arts Center, with Dr. Dana Sibilla, DC DABCO FIANM.

Schedule your appointment today.

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