Symptoms and causes

Symptoms

The muscle contractions involved in cervical dystonia can cause your head to twist in a variety of directions, including:

  • Chin toward shoulder
  • Ear toward shoulder
  • Chin straight up
  • Chin straight down

The most common type of twisting associated with cervical dystonia is when your chin is pulled toward your shoulder. Some people experience a combination of abnormal head postures. A jerking motion of the head also may occur.

Many people who have cervical dystonia also experience neck pain that can radiate into the shoulders. The disorder also can cause headaches. In some people, the pain from cervical dystonia can be exhausting and disabling.

Causes

In most cases of cervical dystonia, the cause is unknown. Some people who have cervical dystonia have a family history of the disorder, so a genetic component may be a factor. Cervical dystonia is sometimes linked to head, neck or shoulder injuries.

Risk factors

Risk factors for cervical dystonia include:

  • Age. While the disorder can occur in people of any age, it most commonly begins after age 30.
  • Your sex. Women are more likely to develop cervical dystonia than are men.
  • Family history. If a close family member has cervical dystonia or some other type of dystonia, you are at higher risk of developing the disorder.

Complications

In some cases, the involuntary muscle contractions associated with cervical dystonia can spread to nearby areas of your body. The most common locations include the face, jaw, arms and trunk.

People who have cervical dystonia also may develop bone spurs that may reduce the amount of space in the spinal canal. This can cause tingling, numbness and weakness in your arms, hands, legs or feet.

Oct. 29, 2016
References
  1. Dystonias fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/dystonias/detail_dystonias.htm. Accessed Sept. 27, 2016.
  2. 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.
  3. Comella C. Classification and evaluation of dystonia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 27, 2016.
  4. AskMayoExpert. Cervical dystonia (spasmodic torticollis). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
  5. Comella C. Treatment of dystonia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 27, 2016.