Cervical dystonia

Cervical dystonia, also referred to as spasmodic torticollis, is a condition with intermittent or continuous painful spasms of the muscles of the neck – and sometimes the shoulder – that cause an abnormal posture of the head. This neurological movement disorder gets gradually worse and the symptoms can also include jerking movements of the head, neck pain, and a raised shoulder. Learn more about this condition, its diagnosis and the different treatment options available.

A number of treatment options are available, depending on the seriousness of the case:

  • Botulinum toxin Type a injections: the neurotoxin blocks the nerve impulse at the junction between the nerve and the muscle and reduces muscle contractions. Injections usually last for a period of about three months.
  • Drug therapies: several different classes of drugs can help to relieve the symptoms of cervical dystonia:
    • muscle relaxants to relax the muscle and alleviate cramp,
    • cholinolytics to reduce the effects of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system,
    • benzodiazepines to help reduce anxiety and alleviate painful spasms.
    • pain medication.
  • Surgery: this may be an option if other therapeutic approaches do not help, and after completing a neurophysiological assessment. A targeted and peripheral neurosurgy technique known as selective denervation (not involving the spine) is the most usual form of surgery.
  • Physiotherapy: is used together with botulinum toxin injections or drug therapy. Special exercises also help to restore a balance between the over- and under-used muscles, normalize posture and increase the range of motion in the head and neck. To be effective, the physiotherapist must also prescribe rehabilitation exercises to be practiced daily by the patient.

The most common

form of focal dystonia

Age 30 to 60

Onset of the disease, in general

A neurological movement disorder

with symptoms appearing gradually

Last update 13/04/2017