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Torticollis: Care Instructions


Torticollis is a severe tightness of the muscles on one side of the neck. The tight muscles can make the head turn or lean to one side. And the head may also be pulled forward or backward. It is also called wryneck.

Your doctor asked questions about your health and examined you. You may also have had X-rays or other tests. If your doctor thinks another medical problem is causing your tight neck muscles, you may need more tests.

Torticollis usually gets better with home care. Your doctor may have you take medicine to relieve pain or relax your muscles. The doctor may suggest exercise and physiotherapy to help increase flexibility and relieve stress. Your doctor may also have you wear a special collar, called a cervical collar, for a day or two. The collar may help make your neck more comfortable.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • Store your prescription pain medicines where no one else can get to them. When you are done using them, dispose of them quickly and safely. Your local pharmacy or hospital may have a drop-off site.
  • Do stretches and exercises that your doctor or physiotherapist suggests. These can help with muscle tightness.
  • Try heat or ice, whichever feels better. Apply it for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Put a thin cloth between the heat or ice and your skin. You might also try switching between heat and ice.
  • If your doctor recommends a cervical collar, wear it exactly as directed.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse numbness in your arms, buttocks, or legs.
  • You have new or worse weakness in your arms or legs.
  • Your neck pain gets worse.
  • You lose bladder or bowel control.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.