Cervical Dystonia

Written by Carol Hopkins

What is it?

Cervical dystonia (spasmodic torticollis) is a condition which causes the muscles of the neck to contract involuntarily. This can cause abnormal movement and awkward neck and head postures. There are two types of movements: sustained/tonic or jerking/clonic. These movements can also be combined. Muscle spasms and pinched nerves in the neck can in turn cause great amounts of pain. The severity can vary greatly from person to person and from mild to severe.

What are the symptoms?

  • Neck muscles contracting involuntarily

  • Sustained muscle contractions = abnormal head and neck posture

  • Muscle spasms = jerking head movements

What are the causes?

The cause of cervical dystonia can either be primary or secondary in nature. If it is a primary cause this means it is the only apparent neurological condition with or without family history. A secondary cause is where the issue is brought on by something such as a physical trauma.

There is currently no physical test to diagnose cervical dystonia. Therefore, it is vital you see a fully trained neurological specialist and/or physiotherapist to be assessed correctly to avoid any misdiagnosis.

There is currently no cure for cervical dystonia but there are treatment options available to help ease your symptoms i.e spasms, pain and altered posture. Working with the correct health care professionals can help you to come up with the best treatment plan for you.

How can Physiotherapy help?

Seeing a physiotherapist with experience of neurological disorders and cervical dystonia is essential. The physiotherapist will perform and initial assessment in order to determine, if not already done so, if it is in fact cervical dystonia or another condition of the neck muscles. Once an examination is done the physiotherapist can perform techniques to help improve the range of movement and decrease the spasms/pain in your head and neck. The physiotherapist can then determine the best appropriate home exercise plan for you. Physiotherapy along with the correct medication intervention (botox injection and oral medications) should help to ease your pain and increase range of movement, flexibility, correct the muscle imbalances, improve posture and coordination and to enhance general functional abilities for in your home and workplace.

If you are currently suffering from cervical dystonia and haven’t tried physiotherapy yet, please get in touch and our physiotherapist Carol would be delighted to see you and help you on your road to recovery.

cervical dystonia neck pain