Cervical Dystonia

General Illness Information

Common Name: Cervical Dystonia

Medical Term: Spasmodic Torticollis

Description: Cervical dystonia is a painful displacement and curvature of the neck. This is a rare disorder in which the condition of the neck muscles contract before spasm. With cervical dystonia, the head is inclined sideways and turned in one direction. It can also be tilted forward or backward. Cervical dystonia sometimes pass without treatment. However, there is a risk of recurrence of this condition.

Any person can have this type of cervical dystonia. However, most often it is detected in middle age. Most often the disease affects women.

Chronic dystonia can cause debilitating pain and make it difficult to perform daily tasks. Fortunately, pain and stiffness can be eliminated with medication or physiotherapy. Sometimes this condition can be corrected with the help of a surgery. Treatment will be more successful if you start it as early as possible, especially in children.


Chronic dystonia can be congenital. There are also cases of intrauterine development. This occurs when the fetal head remains in a wrong position for a long time. Also, this condition is a consequence of muscle damage or circulatory disorders in the neck. Such a condition can develop in any person after injury to the muscles or nerves of the neck. However, in most cases the cause of torticollis is unknown. This is called idiopathic dystonia.

Signs & Symptoms:

Symptoms of cervical dystonia can develop slowly. Over time, they intensify. The most common symptoms are:

  • inability to move your head normally;
  • pain or stiff neck;
  • headache;
  • asymmetry of the shoulders;
  • swelling of neck muscles;
  • chin shift in one direction.

The faces of children with torticollis can be flattened or disproportionate. Children may also have a slowdown in motor skills or hearing and vision impairment.


The doctor will ask about the history of the disease and will conduct a general examination. It is necessary to tell the doctor about any injuries in the neck. Several tests can be performed to establish the cause of cervical dystonia.

Electromyogram (EMG) measures the electrical activity of muscles. It helps to identify the affected muscles.

Using radiography and MRI, it is possible to identify structural problems that cause symptoms.

Possible complications:

In some patients, cervical dystonia develop similar symptoms in adjacent areas, for example, in the shoulder or face area. In addition, pain caused by cervical dystonia can cause depression.

Currently there are no ways to prevent cervical dystonia. However, timely treatment will help prevent deterioration.

Congenital forms of cervical dystonia can be corrected by stretching the muscles of the neck. This treatment can be very successful if you start it in the first months after birth. If this or other methods of treatment do not help, you can correct the problem with surgery.

The acquired cervical dystonia is treated depending on the cause.

Treatment methods of cervical dystonia:

warm dry compresses;
stretching exercises;
wearing a cervical collar.

Types of surgeries:

fusion of pathological vertebrae;
lengthening of the neck muscles;
cutting nerves or muscles;
deep brain stimulation for the cessation of nerve signals – is used in the most severe cases of the cervical dystonia.


muscle relaxants;
medicines used to treat Parkinson’s disease;
botulinum toxin (injections are repeated several months later);


Cervical dystonia caused by a small injury or disease is likely temporary and easily treated. However, congenital and severe forms of cervical dystonia may lead to health problems in the future.

Cervical dystonia may be the cause of the following complications:

  • edema of the neck muscles;
  • neurological symptoms of nerve compression;
  • chronic pain;
  • the difficulty of performing daily tasks;
  • inability to drive a car;
  • difficulties with adaptation in society;
  • insulation;
  • depression.

Correcting cervical dystonia in infants and children is much easier. If the disease is not cured, you need to look for a support group. Many people with chronic conditions receive a sense of comfort and additional information there. The attending doctor will probably tell you about such groups in your area. You can also find support communities on the Internet. Communication with other people with cervical dystonia or with similar conditions will help to cope with the situation.

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