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What is cervical dystonia?
Cervical dystonia (say: serv-ical dis-tone-ee-a) is a condition in which the muscles in the neck contract, twisting the head to one side and pulling the chin to the shoulder. Sometimes the shoulder on the affected side will also be pulled up toward the head. Less often, it can cause the head to be pulled down with the ear toward the shoulder, back or forward.
Cervical dystonia is also called spasmodic torticollis. It can be a painful and uncomfortable condition that may begin slowly, grow more severe and may eventually level off.
What are the symptoms of cervical dystonia?
Along with the contraction (shortening) of neck muscles, symptoms of cervical dystonia include:
- Pain that radiates through the neck and shoulders
- Severe headaches
CAUSES & RISK FACTORS
Who is at risk for cervical dystonia?
Cervical dystonia may run in families. Women are more likely than men to have this condition. Cervical dystonia usually affects people between 40 and 60 years of age.
What causes cervical dystonia?
Cervical dystonia may be caused by a problem in the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia are the part of the brain that send out messages to start muscle movement. Cervical dystonia may also occur after an injury to the head or neck or after a stroke.
DIAGNOSIS & TESTS
How can my healthcare provider tell if I have cervical dystonia?
Your healthcare provider may be able to diagnose cervical dystonia by talking to you about your symptoms and by doing a physical examination. Your healthcare provider may want to do some tests to see how your muscles are working. Your healthcare provider may also check to make sure your symptoms aren’t being caused by another problem, such as a tumor.
How is cervical dystonia treated?
There are several treatment options for cervical dystonia. Medicines such as muscles relaxers and certain Parkinson’s medicines can help your neck muscles relax. These may help you have fewer spasms. Your healthcare provider may also talk to you about physical therapy. Physical therapy is made up of stretching and strengthening exercises. Physical therapy may help reduce pain and improve posture. Surgery is rarely needed.
Will cervical dystonia go away over time?
No. Cervical dystonia is a life-long disorder. However, some people who have cervical dystonia may experience periods of time without any symptoms (remission).
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
- How can physical therapy help cervical dystonia? Can you show me some exercises that will help?
- My mother had cervical dystonia. Am I at risk of getting it? Can I pass it down to my children?
- Could cervical dystonia be a symptom of another condition?
- Will I have to have surgery to treat this condition?
- What types of medicines are you used to treat cervical dystonia?
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