Cervical Dystonia: Causes And Treatment

According to a recent study conducted by a popular medical board in the United States, it has been observed that approximately 60,000 people are affected by Cervical Dystonia every year which is a rare condition in which the neck muscle involuntarily contracts into abnormal positions. With so many people getting affected every year, it is high time that we should know about this condition and about the treatments available that we can avail for curing the problem.

After all, learning more about a condition can help us to fight against it with proper precautions and treatments.

So let us know everything about this rare disease.

What is Cervical Dystonia?

Cervical Dystonia is commonly called spasmodic torticollis. It is a condition where neck muscles contract into abnormal positions. In this condition, the repetitive twisting of the head and neck are observed. The twisting can be intermittent, in spasms or constantly.

It is an extremely painful and disabling condition. 

Cervical Dystonia causes

The causes of cervical dystonia are unknown as most of the cervical dystonia cases rise without any underlying symptoms. Nevertheless, over years of study and scientific research, it has been found that some causes can increase the chances of Cervical dystonia in the body.

Some of the causes are:

  1. If a person is suffering from neurological disorders like Parkinson’s
  2. Consumed antipsychotics drugs that can block dopamine secretion in the brain.
  3. Has suffered from any injury to head, neck and shoulder.
  4. It has been identified that 10-25% times the underlying cause of cervical dystonia has been a genetic mutation in the body or it has already been present during birth.
  5. Although considered rare, psychological problems can also lead to cervical dystonia.

These are some of the most common causes, however, there are some factors which can also increase the risk of the competition.

  1. Women are considered twice vulnerable to cervical dystonia than men.
  2. People who are between age groups 40 and 60.
  3. People who have a family history of dystonia.

Cervical Dystonia symptoms 

The symptoms of cervical dystonia generally develop over time. It can range from mild to severe.

Cervical Dystonia


Some early symptoms that can be looked upon as warning signs are

  1. Condition of “dragging leg”.
  2. Cramping of foot
  3. Involuntary pulling of the neck
  4. Uncontrollable blinking
  5. Difficulty in speech or slurred speech condition.

Upon encountering the above symptoms, one should immediately consult a doctor to prevent further worsening of the condition.

The above-mentioned symptoms were the early signs which may or maybe not be the actual symptoms of this condition.

Listing down below are the symptoms which are generally associated with cervical dystonia condition.

  • Abnormal movements of head and chin.

These movements can be further classified down 

  1. If the twisting of the head and chin occurs sideways toward the shoulder, then it is known as Torticollis.
  2. If the head moves forward and the chin moves downwards, then the condition is known as Anterocollis.
  3. The tilting backwards of the head and chin moving upwards is known as Retrocollis.
  4. The tilting of the head and chin sideways that is from ear to shoulder is known as Laterocollis.
  • Cervical spine arthritis
  • Compression of nerve roots
  • Narrowing of the spinal cord in the neck
  • Pain is the most frequent and most challenging symptom of cervical dystonia. It occurs on the same side as the tilt and can be extremely painful
  • Unbearable neck pain that radiates to the shoulder
  • Constantly raised shoulders
  • Light hand tremors
  • Half of the population suffering from cervical dystonia suffers from violent head tremors.
  • Enlargement of neck muscles.
  • Unawareness of physical movements
  • Stress, excitement and physical position can further aggregate the symptoms.

Cervical Dystonia treatments

Diagnosis of cervical dystonia is easy as most of the symptoms mentioned are particular to the condition.

There is no particular cure or treatment for cervical dystonia, however, upon diagnosis, the following treatments are generally prescribed to the affected.


Botulinum toxin which is a paralyzing agent that smoothes facial wrinkles is generally prescribed to the affected patients. It is directly injected to neck muscles that have been affected by cervical dystonia and need to be repeated in three to four months.

It has been observed that botulinum injects have proved to be extremely beneficial for the affected and to quicken the healing period, one can also consume oral medications with it. However, consumption of medications should be taken only if prescribed by the doctor.

Some of the examples of botulinum toxin drugs are Botox, Dysport, Xeomin and Myobloc.


Sensory tricks like massaging the opposite side of the face or back of the head can be applied to provide a temporary solution to stop the spasms.

However, these therapies lose effectiveness as the condition worsens over time.

Heat packs, compresses and exercises which build up neck strength and flexibility are proved to be beneficial for cervical dystonia.

As we all know stress can aggravate the situation, therefore, learning some stress management techniques can also be beneficial for treating cervical dystonia.

3.Surgical Treatments

If any of the above treatments do not produce the desired result for you, then consider the surgical treatments. However, surgeries should only be considered in extreme conditions and should be performed by a trained professional.

The treatments that are considered for cervical dystonia are-

  • Deep brain stimulation- A thin wire is guided into the brain through a small hole cut into the skull. The tip of the wire is placed in the part of the brain that controls movements of the body. Electrical impulses are sent through it to interrupt the nerve signals that make the head twist.
  • Cutting the nerves- In this condition, nerves carrying the contraction signals to the affected muscles are surgically severed off.

There you go, everything you need to know about cervical dystonia. Although considered a rare condition, the number of cases reporting this condition has increased over the past years.

The cause is unknown however encountering any of the above symptoms, immediate consultation with the doctor to prevent further worsening of the situation is advisable. With proper treatments and medications, it could be easily prevented from aggravating.

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