Cervical Dystonia – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Cervical Dystonia

Your neck muscles contract if you have cervical dystonia, also known as spasmodic torticollis. Your head & neck start to move involuntarily as a result, of bending and rotating. These motions may hurt and make it difficult for you to engage in the things you want to do. Treatments can aid with symptom management.

Cervical Dystonia

A neurological disorder called cervical dystonia affects the brain and nerves, resulting in involuntary spasms of the neck muscles. Your muscles become stiff and unable to release when they contract. It has an impact on your posture. You can experience strange motions in your head and neck that resemble jerks or spasms. Pain and suffering from this illness may interfere with your daily activities.


Your head may twist in a number of ways as a result of the cervical dystonia-related muscular spasms, including:

  • Chin towards the shoulder
  • From ear to shoulder
  • Chin up
  • Chin down firmly

The most typical twisting that links to cervical dystonia is the pulling of the chin towards the shoulder. A variety of unusual head positions affect certain people. There may also be a jerking motion of the head.

Cervical dystonia patients frequently report neck discomfort that might spread to the shoulders. Headaches may potentially be a result of the condition. Cervical dystonia discomfort can be painful and stressful for many individuals.

Causes of Cervical Dystonia

Cervical dystonia usually has an unknown cause. Some cases have shown the following potential causes:

  • Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s
  • Drugs that inhibit dopamine, including several antipsychotics
  • Harm to the shoulders, neck, or head
  • A genetic mutation, given that the condition may run in the family in 10 to 25 percent of cases with cervical dystonia.
  • Mental health issue

Cervical dystonia can sometimes be present from birth. There may also be environmental variables impact.


After reviewing your symptoms and doing a physical examination, a medical professional will diagnose cervical dystonia. They will also inquire about your medical history as well as the medical history of your family.

Because they determine whether you are aware of the problem in your biological family. MRIs and electromyography are not necessary unless your doctor detects spinal cord compression, nerve injury, or irritation.


Cervical dystonia has more effective treatment options now than in the past. Counseling may be beneficial in addition to medical therapy, particularly if it focuses on stress management techniques.

Physical Therapy

Physical treatment might be beneficial. This includes specific stretching and strengthening exercises along with heat and massage. This helps relieve tension in your shoulders and neck.


Using an electronic device, biofeedback measures things like blood flow, brain waves, and muscular activity. The individual with cervical dystonia is then given the information back to assist them in better controlling their uncontrollable movements. A small 2013 research that used biofeedback showed a notable increase in quality of life and pain alleviation.


Surgical techniques may be a possibility if more conservative therapy proves ineffective. Note that there is no large-scale controlled research available since cervical dystonia is an uncommon disorder.

The brain’s motor neurons responsible for the head’s involuntary motions are severed in older surgical methods. Side effects are possible with certain surgical procedures. Additionally, after a while, involuntary motions could recur.

Deep Brain Stimulation

One more recent therapy is deep brain stimulation or neuromodulation. Electrical leads are inserted into the brain through a tiny hole drilled in the skull. In the region of the collarbone, a small battery that powers the leads is implanted.

The battery and the leads are connected with under-skin wires. Moreover, the nerves that cause involuntary movements of the head and neck can be stimulated with low-voltage electric current using a remote control.


To strengthen your muscles and reduce discomfort, a physical therapist can provide you with safe at-home exercises. Simple sensory techniques can occasionally be beneficial to prevent a spasm.

These include softly brushing against your chin, cheek, or back of your head, as well as the other side of your face. It could be more beneficial to do this on the side where your spasm is occurring.

The Bottom Line

Cervical dystonia is a painful disorder. Your head moves when you do not want it to because the muscles in your neck find it difficult to relax. It may keep you from going about your everyday routines or engaging in specific hobbies. Furthermore, to alleviate your symptoms and improve your quality of life, your healthcare practitioner can assist you in determining the most effective treatment.