Cervical Dystonia

What is Cervical Dystonia?

Cervical dystonia, also referred to as spasmodic torticollis, is an extremely painful medical condition that causes the next muscles to contract on an involuntary basis. This contraction causes the head to turn to one side, or twist to one side. Cervical dystonia can also cause a tilt of your head, either forward or backwards.

This condition is rare, and can happen at any age. Some people develop the condition during infancy. Cervical dystonia is most frequent in people who are considered middle age. It is also more prevalent in women than it is in men.

Symptoms of this disorder usually appear gradually. Eventually, they plateau and do not get much worse.

What are the Symptoms of Cervical Dystonia?

The most common form of cervical dystonia is when your chin is pulled toward the shoulder. There are some people who experience different combinations of postures. There may also be a jerking motion of the head.

Symptoms include

  • Headache
  • jerking motion of head
  • Pain in the neck
  • Pain that radiates into the shoulders

The painful muscle contractions that come along with cervical dystonia can cause the head to twist in a variety of uncomfortable positions. The primary directions the disorder causes the head to twist in are:

  • Pull your chin to your shoulder
  • Pull your ear toward your shoulder
  • Pull you chin straight up
  • Pull your chin straight down

Cervical Dystonia Causes

The exact cause of cervical dystonia is unknown. Medicine and science link this dystonia to family history and genetics since the chances of passing on the inherited gene to offspring increases when a family member is diagnosed with the disease. Genetic inheritance still exists in families experiencing other types of dystonia, although the lack of signs may reduce the percentage of occurrence.

Secondary causes of dystonia result when individuals experience injuries to the head, neck, and shoulder or some form of physical trauma. Exposure to medications or a stroke can trigger injuries to the brain or nervous system causing cervical dystonia. Sometimes, there is no genetic link, confirming the condition can happen randomly.

Although it can happen at any age, it shows up more often after the age of 30. The condition is more prevalent in women than it is in men. The levels of pain vary with signs of the condition disappearing only to reoccur in some individuals.

How is Cervical Dystonia Treated?

Currently, there is not a cure for cervical dystonia. Some people see relief from their symptoms without medical treatment. However, it is common for the condition to reappear later. Treatment for this disorder focuses on relieving the symptoms of the disorder and ensuring the patient’s comfort.

Medication treatments

  • Botulinum toxin
  • Parkinson’s Medications
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Pain medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery to cut the muscles and nerves that trigger the spams.

Many patients find relief with the treatments that are available. However, treatment must be repeated later if the symptoms return.

Doctors who treat this disorder understand the symptoms well enough to know when changing the treatment approach is necessary. Many times, a new medication can be tried before the symptoms become severe and cause a lot of discomfort.

Cervical Dystonia Prevention

There is no cure for cervical dystonia. The best prevention is to learn about your family history and the pattern of diagnosis of the disease. The next step is to educate your own family about the disorder. Share information on the effects of certain medications due to the genetic links. Talk with your doctor about your family history before deciding what works best for your own situation.

Make an effort to protect your head neck and shoulders from injuries to prevent this condition from happening. Take the time to understand the options of treatment involving botulinum toxin injections or selective nerve surgery.

You can also learn more about the at-home self-treatments for this disorder to help prevent further damage; heat packs, massages, and exercises help strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles for improved motion.