What is Spasmodic Torticollis?

Spasmodic Torticollis Spasmodic (adult on-set) Torticollis also known as Cervical Dystonia is a rare neurological movement disorder which is characterized by debilitating pain in the neck due to involuntary contraction of neck muscles leading to twisting of head to one side or uncontrollable forward or backward tilting of head.


3 in every 10,000 people are affected by this condition in the USA alone. Women are more prone to it when compared to men. Middle age people are usually affected, although records show its occurrence in some infants as well.

Causes of Spasmodic Torticollis:

  • The primary cause is thought to be a dysfunction of the brain.
  • Injury to shoulder or head or neck could also lead to it.
  • Some anti nausea or antipsychotic medications may also cause the condition.
  • It could be genetic. Nearly 5% people who develop this condition have a family history of it and 50% of them have a family history of tremors in hands or head.
  • It could also be the result of some other conditions such as lesions in brain stem.

Symptoms of Cervical Dystonia:

Symptoms usually begin between the age of 25 and 55, touching the peak between the age of 30 and 40. These include:

  • Symptoms begin to show up gradually and get noticed when a person struggles to keep his/her head straight.
  • Between 2 and 5 years the condition progresses to a peak level and stops worsening further.
  • Back of the shoulders or side of the neck are the places where the pain manifestation is high.
  • Neck pain that radiates to any one shoulder.
  • Neck contractions and spasms that lead to abnormal head position, twisting it in different directions such as ai???chin straight upai??i??, ai???chin toward shoulderai??i??, ai???chin straight downai??i?? and ai???ear toward shoulder.ai??i??
  • Symptoms may resemble to the ones common in some other disorders such as muscular dystrophy, Parkinsonai??i??s disease, epilepsy and wry neck (acute neck pain and neck spasm that usually lasts for a few days).

Three varieties of Spasmodic Torticollis have been identified.

  1. 1. Clonic ai??i?? shaking of the head.
  2. 2. Tonic ai??i?? turning of the head to one side.
  3. 3. Mixed ai??i?? involves both shaking and turning of the head.

Turning of the head is further classified as:

  • Laterocollis ai??i?? head pulled towards the shoulder.
  • Rotational ai??i?? head turned to one side.
  • Anterocollis ai??i?? head pulled forward.
  • Retrocollis ai??i?? head pulled backwards.

Treatment for Spasmodic Torticollis:

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this neurological condition. Some people may stop experiencing the symptoms without any treatment whereas in some others, symptoms may recur even after undergoing treatment. Treatment options include:

  • Symptomatic movements of the head and neck may disappear temporarily during sleep and do not reappear for about 10 minutes to 4 hours after waking up. Taking advantage of this situation, many patients prefer lying down at frequent intervals during the day.
  • Spasms may also cease temporarily by touching the opposite side of the chin or cheek.
  • In people with mild symptoms and below 40 years of age, recovery is seen within 5 years of the on-set of the symptoms in nearly 20% of them.
  • Chemodenervation is a process of contracting muscles using MYOBLOC (botulinum toxin type B) or BOTOX (botulinum toxin type A).
  • Over the counter pain medications may be taken for pain relief.
  • Muscle relaxants such as Ativan (lorazepam), Valium, Diastat (diazepam), Lioresal (baclofen) and Klonopin (clonazepam) may also be taken for pain relief.
  • Neck strength and flexibility can be improved by practicing neck exercises regularly.

Spasmodic Torticollis may lead to depression in some patients. Doctors usually suggest a multi-disciplinary approach to treat this condition which includes a combination of 2 or more above mentioned options.

2 responses to What is Spasmodic Torticollis?

  1. Hi have have been suffering for over a year now of severe pain in my neck, shoulders, arms and head tremors when i have these attacks my head is imobilised forward to my chin and i cant move any part of my upper body these attacks are becoming more frequent and lasting for upto 4 weeks at a time,. I have been prescribed 5mg of diazepam 4 times daily and pain killers which i find are not that useful i do not even have any relief when i go to bed at night, I am 41 years old and female any information would be appriciated as at my wits end.

    Kind regards

    Kim Maddocks

  2. Kim
    I went to a clinic in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The founder (Abbie Brown) is a fellow sufferer of teh malady we have all come to hate. Through physical exercise, stretching, massage and proprer nutrition, Abbie has completely recovered. Go to her website and see for yourself: http://www.stclinic.com

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