Cervical Dystonia

What is Cervical Dystonia?

Cervical Dystonia is a neurological disorder that causes muscles in the neck to involuntarily contract, resulting in abnormal and sometimes painful head and neck positions. The disorder is known by several names, including spasmodic torticollis and torticollis. It affects about four in every 1,000 people, but is more prevalent among women and people between the ages of 40 and 60.

Common Symptoms of Cervical Dystonia

Common symptoms of Cervical Dystonia include:

  • Uncontrollable muscle contractions
  • Abnormal, uncomfortable posturing or changes in the position of the head and neck
  • Stiffness and pain in the muscles of the neck and shoulders
  • Head tremors
  • Headaches and fatigue
  • Restless sleep

Causes of Cervical Dystonia

The exact cause of Cervical Dystonia has not yet been determined; however, research suggests that it is related to an abnormal function in the part of the brain involved with controlling movement and posture. Abnormalities of serotonin, dopamine, and GABA are all thought to play a role in the development of the disorder.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Cervical Dystonia

To diagnose Cervical Dystonia, a doctor may do a physical examination, or the doctor may order imaging scans such as MRI, CT, or EEG. A doctor may also order blood tests or other tests to help in the diagnosis. Treatment of Cervical Dystonia will usually involve a combination of medications, botulinum toxin injections, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

Living with Cervical Dystonia

Living with Cervical Dystonia can be challenging, but there are steps people can take to minimize the impact of the disorder on their daily lives. It is important to find a doctor who specializes in Cervical Dystonia, so that they can get the best possible treatment. Exercise, both aerobic and strength training, can help to keep muscles strong and limber. Using relaxation techniques and postural awareness can also be beneficial. Additionally, there are support groups available online and in person where people can find others who understand the challenges of living with Cervical Dystonia.