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Also known as spasmodic torticollis, cervical dystonia is a health issue that affects the muscles of the neck. The condition causes the neck muscles to contract, which in turn causes the head to twist uncontrollably toward the right or left shoulder. In severe cases, this head and neck disorder can also cause the head to tilt backward and forward involuntarily.
There are several conditions that can lead to the development of cervical dystonia. Severe injuries to the head, neck, or shoulders may lead to the involuntary movements. People who have experienced a stroke or developed a tumor in the brain or along the spinal cord are also at risk. Some medications used to treat depression and other mental health issues may trigger this form of dystonia.
For most people who experience this condition, there is a great deal of pain along the shoulders and into the neck. Severe headaches are also common among sufferers, as is some amount of dizziness. It is not unusual for tremors in the arms and hands to develop as the condition worsens. There is also the chance of the muscle contractions leading to shoulder elevation on one side of the body, often pulling the shoulder upward to meet the head as it bends down toward the shoulder.
Unlike some similar disorders, there is no cure for cervical dystonia. The focus of treatment is on addressing the symptoms and attempting to bring them under control. In order to ease the frequency and severity of the muscle contractions, both type A and b botulinum toxin is employed. While these are more commonly used to treat facial wrinkles, they help to ease the involuntary movements almost as soon as the toxins are injected.
Muscle relaxants are also effective in easing some of the symptoms of cervical dystonia. Medications normally used to ease stress, such as diazepam or clonazepam, not only help to ease the stiffness of the neck and head muscles, but can also help lower the levels of anxiety and stress that are often present. To help with tremors, medications that are used to treat Parkinson’s disease, such as benztropine or trihexyphenidyl, are often effective.
In rare cases, surgery is required to ease the pain and involuntary movements associated with cervical dystonia. The surgery may involve severing muscles or nerves in order to prevent the contractions. A technique known as deep brain stimulation, which involves the insertion of a thin wire into the skull in order to pass a small amount of current directly to the brain, can also provide relief. However, surgery is generally not utilized as long as the symptoms of the condition can be controlled with medication.