There is no cure for cervical dystonia. In some people, signs and symptoms may disappear without treatment, but recurrence is common. Treatment focuses on relieving the signs and symptoms.
Botulinum toxin, a paralyzing agent often used to smooth facial wrinkles, can be injected directly into the neck muscles affected by cervical dystonia. Examples of botulinum toxin drugs include Botox, Dysport, Xeomin and Myobloc.
Most people with cervical dystonia see an improvement with these injections, which usually must be repeated every three to four months.
To improve results or to help reduce the dosage and frequency of botulinum toxin injections, your doctor might also suggest oral medications that have a muscle-relaxing effect.
Sensory tricks, such as touching the opposite side of your face or the back of your head, may cause spasms to stop temporarily. Different sensory tricks work for different people, but they often lose effectiveness as the disease progresses.
Heat packs and massage can help relax your neck and shoulder muscles. Exercises that improve neck strength and flexibility may also be helpful.
The signs and symptoms of cervical dystonia tend to worsen when you're stressed, so learning stress management techniques is also important.
Surgical and other procedures
If less invasive treatments don't help, your doctor might suggest surgery. Procedures may include:
- Deep brain stimulation. In this procedure, a thin wire is guided into the brain through a small hole cut into the skull. The tip of the wire is placed in the portion of the brain that controls movement. Electrical pulses are sent through the wire to interrupt the nerve signals making your head twist.
- Cutting the nerves. Another option is to surgically sever the nerves carrying the contraction signals to the affected muscles.
Oct. 29, 2016
- Dystonias fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/dystonias/detail_dystonias.htm. Accessed Sept. 27, 2016.
- Frontera WR. Cervical dystonia. In: Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 27, 2016.
- Comella C. Classification and evaluation of dystonia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 27, 2016.
- AskMayoExpert. Cervical dystonia (spasmodic torticollis). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
- Comella C. Treatment of dystonia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 27, 2016.