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Cervical dystonia (spasmodic torticollis)

What is Cervical Dystonia (Spasmodic Torticollis)?

Cervical Dystonia is an autoimmune movement disorder characterized by continuous, involuntary and repetitive actions and postures. Dystonia covers a wide spectrum of symptoms caused by opposite muscle contractions (muscle co-contraction).

Cervical dystonia (CD) is the most prevalent dystonia restricted to a particular area within the human entire body (focal dystonia or locally confined). CD is the term used to describe dystonia that specifically affects the neck muscles. The condition is defined by a slouching head, involuntary muscle contractions in cervical vertebrae, tremors of the head, chronic neck spasms, and cervical pain.

People who have dystonia can display an array of diverse and varied characteristics that could be present at different levels:

Unusual postural posture, postural responses and control of postural posture;

Abnormal vestibular functioning;

Changed sense of the body’s orientation space

Head jerking;

“Sensory techniques” to ease tension in muscles (e.g. gently touching your neck, face or the head at a certain spot);

Neck spasms, neck pain

Head tilt (twisting neck) includes head tilt and rotational torticollis.

Nearly all people suffering from CD think it’s an impairment, primarily due to the discomfort that occurs due to the overactivity of muscles. Patients who suffer from CD say the condition has a major negative effect on their lives.

In the world of society, there is an abundance of discrimination and stigmatization that is associated with the condition. As it is, many people suffering from CD are anxious and socially unresponsive. The research suggests that 25 and 40% of those with CD are unemployed because of their condition, which causes depression.


About nine out of 100,000 individuals are likely to be diagnosed with CD, the most frequent focal dystonia. Another diagnosis for CD could indicate that the estimate is less than the actual number. The condition is more prevalent among women. The ratio of males to females is around 1.7:1.

CD usually begins around adulthood. The onset of CD is typically at 42.9 years for women and 39.2 years for men.

It is uncommon for children to suffer from cervical dystonia. If a child is experiencing twisting of the neck, it’s probable to result from a related, distinct condition referred to as congenital torticollis. Congenital torticollis occurs in a few babies from the time of birth. The neck’s muscle is stretched, causing the head to tilt towards the side. The condition is usually treat with physical therapy.

5 to 21% of those suffering from CD suffer trauma or an injury to the head or neck before developing CD. But, this doesn’t suggest that these individuals develop the condition because of the incident. It’s still unclear whether trauma-related events trigger dystonia or act as triggers for an existing dormant condition.

The state that develops after a neck or head trauma is distinct compare to other forms associated with the disorder. The particularly post-injury CD is not improved after sleeping, and the head and neck are more likely to be more restrict in their mobility.

More than 60% of people suffering from CD require analgesics to alleviate the pain associate with the condition.


CD is classified as either focal or generalized. The focal CD is most frequent and affects a smaller muscle segment in the neck. In contrast, generalized CD usually begins at a younger age and is prevalent across the cervical vertebrae. Primary or secondary symptoms may also classify CD.

Primary cervical dystonia

CD is considered primary if it’s not of any neurological (brain) disorder, but it is a disease on its own. The reason for direct CD remains largely unidentified. Most people suffering from CD have a family history of moving issues, indicating an underlying genetic cause. Still, there is no information specific to genetics has been discover yet.

Secondary cervical dystonia

CD is believe to be secondary due to other neurological disorders. There could be a variety of reasons behind secondary CD symptoms. However, whether they’re the cause of CD or triggers to trigger the disease is yet to be establish. CD can develop after any of the following events in life or illnesses:

Head or neck injuries following the injury CD may occur right away or as long as 12 months following the event;

CD is a possible secondary symptom that is associated with Parkinsons’ disease and related Parkinsonian diseases;

CD may be a secondary symptom of Wilson’s disease.

Birth abnormality;

Abnormal development history.

Birth-related abnormalities like an abnormal head and neck shapes are associate with the extremely rare cases of the childhood CD.

Exposure to toxins.

The use of older neuroleptics anti-nausea or anti-vertigo medications.

How is it Diagnose

The first step that a physician is required to determine. If they have CD is to take the patient’s complete medical history. Including any previous trauma or injury as well as any imbalances. This can help identify tardive dystonia caused by medication or toxic substances that are the most frequent cause of CD.

Your doctor will want you to explain your symptoms. Typically, patients with the early stage of CD complain of a stiff neck and uncontrollable twisting of the neck, making it feel like it’s becoming “pulled”.

When the CD is the main cause, there are a few alternatives for further research since tests in the Chughtai laboratory and neuroimaging may not yield much information.

During a physical examination in the clinic, we can identify the overactive muscles implicated in the postural imbalance by analyzing your range of motion and motion patterns of the neck, head and shoulders.


The earlier treatment is advise even in cases of mild CD since this can prevent the disorder’s progression.

Therapies to treat CD include:

Botulinum (BoNT) injections or oral medication.

Physical therapies.

Selective peripheral denervation.

Deep brain stimulation and interventions that are social and supportive.

Botulinum toxin treatments are generally consider a first-line treatment for the majority. The most common CD disorder, tardive dystonia, can be the toughest to treat as patients normally respond poorly to the available medications. The first step for these patients is to stop immediately using the drug that causes the symptoms.

Botulinum Toxin (BoNT)

BoNT is naturally found in the body and# has its clinical actions (effects) through relaxing muscles via blocking acetylcholine release in the neuromuscular junction. BoNT Type A (BoNTABoNTA – Botox, Dysport) is the first-line treatment for CD patients. Positive outcomes have been report following only one or two injections and can sustain positive results with subsequent injections.

Everyone reacts differently to BoNTA injections. This is why your doctor should keep track of you throughout your treatment. At the beginning of your treatment, your doctor might decide to alter the dosage and even change the muscle injected to maximize the effects.

The decision about any adjustments needed to ensure the success of the subsequent session of BoNTA injections could require many visits to your physician. To ensure the best results from this treatment, it’s essential to be diligent and punctually communicate the symptoms to your doctor. Requesting your family and acquaintances to observe you help achieve this is possible.

BoNT is poisonous and adverse effects may develop when the toxin gets spread. You must seek medical help promptly when any issues with swallowing, breathing or speech develop. Your physician can help you determine the appropriate treatment for you.


Oral medicines do not offer relief from the effects of dystonia. The benzodiazepines that are low doses (Diazepam) can be beneficial as they aid in relaxing the muscles and ease anxiety. Baclofen (e.g. Barcelo) is a drug that reduces releases of neurotransmitters, which are responsible for triggering the activity of muscles. Both benzodiazepines as well as baclofen are connect to a large number of adverse reactions.

Intrathecal baclofen

Intrathecal baclofen (e.g. Lioresal Intrathecal) injections in the cervical spine’s high region have been proven effective in treating CD. Following treatment, patients have reported greater mobility of neck muscles and less pain of care, and better living quality.

Common side effects of baclofen include reactions at the injection site and other medication-related side effects like drowsiness, tiredness, headache, dizziness, and nausea.

Selective peripheral denervation

A procedure known as selective peripheral denervation is an option that is only use to treat CD. The process involves cutting specific nerves which innervate the neck muscles affected in every situation.

This procedure is commonly referr to as denervation and results in numbness around the neck area, thereby decreasing the pain. The treatment is only utilize in cases where BoNT or any other medication are efficient. The procedure is proven to deliver promising short- and long-term outcomes.

The side effects that result from this procedure aren’t typical but can include tic-like discomfort and an infection with a bacterium in the tissues surrounding the tonsils (tonsillar abscess), as well as a transient inflammation.