Cervical dystonia, also called spasmodic torticollis, is a condition characterized by involuntary muscle contractions in the neck that cause the head to turn to one side or twist. This can be a painful condition and may also result in uncontrollable forward or backward tilting of the head. The muscle contractions occur without the affected person’s conscious control.
While cervical dystonia can affect individuals of any age, it is a relatively uncommon condition. Cervical dystonia typically manifests in middle-aged individuals, with a higher incidence among women than men. In most cases, symptoms develop gradually until they stabilize at a certain point when they don’t significantly worsen.
The condition cervical dystonia cannot be cured. Sometimes the condition goes away on its own, although long-lasting remissions are rare. Botulinum toxin injections into the afflicted muscles frequently alleviate cervical dystonia’s signs and symptoms. In some circumstances, surgery may be necessary.
Cervical dystonia can cause your head to twist in various ways due to the muscle spasms that occur in the affected muscles. This includes the chin toward the shoulder, chin straight up or chin straight down. Another twisting direction is the ear toward the shoulder.
Your chin is dragged toward your shoulder when you experience cervical dystonia, which is the most frequent type of twisting. A combination of aberrant head positions might occur in some people. It’s also possible for the head to jerk.
Neck pain that may spread to the shoulders and headaches are common symptoms of cervical dystonia. For some individuals, the pain associated with cervical dystonia can be exhausting and disabling, with the side of the head that tilts often being the source of the pain.
Although the exact cause of cervical dystonia is unknown, there is evidence that suggests a genetic component may be involved in some cases as it has been observed to run in families. Cervical dystonia is linked to gene mutations, according to research. Injury to the head, neck, or shoulder has also been associated to cervical dystonia on occasion. In addition to a potential genetic link, other possible causes of cervical dystonia may include neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, medication side effects such as those associated with antipsychotics that block dopamine, or a psychological disorder.
Cervical dystonia risk factors include:
- Age. Although the disorder can affect persons of any age, it typically starts after the age of 30.
- Sex. Cervical dystonia is more common in women than in men.
- Family history. You are more likely to acquire cervical dystonia or another type of dystonia if a close relative already has it.