Cervical dystonia, also known as spasmodic torticollis, is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions in the neck, resulting in abnormal movements and postures. While there is no cure for cervical dystonia, there are several treatment options available to help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. In this article, we will explore the various treatment approaches for cervical dystonia.

Key Takeaways:

  • There are multiple treatment options available for cervical dystonia to manage symptoms.
  • Treatment approaches include medications, therapies, surgical procedures, and participation in clinical trials.
  • It is important to consult with a neurologist for proper diagnosis and evaluation.
  • Lifestyle modifications, stress management, and support systems are also crucial aspects of treatment.
  • Stay informed about advancements in cervical dystonia treatment through credible sources like Mayo Clinic and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Diagnosis of Cervical Dystonia

Diagnosing cervical dystonia is primarily done through a physical examination conducted by a neurologist, who specializes in disorders of the brain and nervous system. A comprehensive evaluation helps determine the presence of characteristic signs and symptoms of cervical dystonia. In most cases, the physical examination alone is sufficient for diagnosis.

During the examination, the doctor may observe involuntary movements, abnormal postures, and muscle spasms in the neck area. They may also assess the range of motion and muscle tone in the neck and shoulders. The doctor may inquire about the duration, frequency, and intensity of symptoms to gain a better understanding of the condition.

In some instances, additional diagnostic tests may be recommended to rule out any underlying causes of the symptoms or to confirm the diagnosis of cervical dystonia. These tests can provide further insights and help in the management of the condition.

Blood Tests

Blood tests are not specific for cervical dystonia but can be useful in ruling out other conditions that may mimic its symptoms. These tests can help identify any abnormalities in the blood, such as inflammation markers or specific antibodies that may indicate an immune-related disorder.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI scan uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of the brain and the structures within it. It may be recommended to rule out any structural abnormalities or brain lesions that could be causing the symptoms of cervical dystonia. The MRI scan can provide valuable information to the neurologist and help in the accurate diagnosis of the condition.

Overall, a combination of a thorough physical examination and, if necessary, additional diagnostic tests such as blood tests or MRI can aid in the diagnosis of cervical dystonia. Consulting a neurologist is essential to ensure a proper evaluation and accurate diagnosis.



Medications for Cervical Dystonia

Medications play a crucial role in managing the signs and symptoms of cervical dystonia. Two main types of medications are commonly prescribed: botulinum toxin injections and oral muscle relaxants.

Botulinum Toxin Injections

Botulinum toxin injections, such as Botox, Dysport, Xeomin, and Myobloc, are commonly used to treat cervical dystonia. These injections work by directly targeting the affected neck muscles and temporarily paralyzing them, providing relief from muscle spasms. The injections are usually administered by a healthcare professional and need to be repeated every three to four months for optimal results.

Here is a table summarizing the different types of botulinum toxin injections used for cervical dystonia:

Type of Botulinum Toxin InjectionBrand NameAdministration Frequency
Botulinum Toxin Type ABotoxEvery three to four months
Botulinum Toxin Type ADysportEvery three to four months
Botulinum Toxin Type AXeominEvery three to four months
Botulinum Toxin Type BMyoblocEvery three to four months

medications for cervical dystonia

Oral Muscle Relaxants

In addition to botulinum toxin injections, oral medications may also be prescribed to help manage the symptoms of cervical dystonia. These medications have a muscle-relaxing effect and can be taken orally as prescribed by a healthcare professional. They are often used to supplement the effects of botulinum toxin injections, allowing for a reduced dosage and frequency of injections.

It is important to note that the choice of medications and their dosages may vary depending on individual circumstances. A healthcare professional will evaluate the specific needs of each patient and determine the most suitable treatment plan.

Therapies for Cervical Dystonia

When it comes to managing cervical dystonia, there are various therapies that can be effective in reducing symptoms and improving your quality of life. These therapies include sensory tricks, heat packs and massage, and exercises.

Sensory Tricks

Sensory tricks are simple actions you can do to provide temporary relief from the spasms associated with cervical dystonia. These tricks involve touching certain areas to distract the brain and temporarily reduce muscle contractions. For example, you can try gently touching the opposite side of your face or the back of your head. Experiment with different sensory tricks to find what works best for you.

Heat Packs and Massage

Applying heat packs to your neck and shoulder muscles can help relax them and provide relief from the discomfort caused by cervical dystonia. Heat increases blood flow to the affected area, promoting relaxation and reducing muscle tension. Additionally, massage therapy can further relax the muscles and alleviate tension. Consult with a licensed massage therapist to determine the most suitable massage techniques for your condition.


Specific exercises that target neck strength and flexibility can be beneficial in managing cervical dystonia. These exercises help improve muscle tone and support proper alignment of the neck. It is important to consult with a physical therapist or a qualified healthcare professional to develop an exercise routine tailored to your needs. They can guide you on proper technique and ensure you’re doing the exercises safely and effectively.

Remember, individual responses to therapies can vary, so it’s essential to find what works best for you. Some individuals may find certain sensory tricks or therapeutic approaches more effective than others. It’s also important to keep in mind that the effectiveness of these therapies may decline as the disease progresses. Consulting with your healthcare provider will help you determine the most suitable therapies for your specific situation.

therapies for cervical dystonia

Sensory TricksProvides temporary relief from muscle contractionsEffectiveness varies for each individual
Heat Packs and MassageRelaxes neck and shoulder muscles, reduces tensionConsult with a professional for proper technique
ExercisesImproves neck strength and flexibilityConsult with a physical therapist for a tailored routine

Surgical Procedures for Cervical Dystonia

In cases where less invasive treatments do not provide sufficient relief, surgery may be considered as an option for cervical dystonia treatment. Surgical treatments for cervical dystonia include deep brain stimulation (DBS) and nerve cutting.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure that involves placing a thin wire into the brain. The wire sends electrical pulses to interrupt the nerve signals causing the head to twist. This procedure aims to modulate abnormal brain activity and relieve the symptoms of cervical dystonia.

Another surgical option for cervical dystonia is nerve cutting, also known as selective denervation. In this procedure, the surgeon cuts the nerves that carry the contraction signals to the affected muscles. By interrupting the abnormal nerve signaling, nerve cutting aims to reduce muscle spasms and correct the abnormal head position.

Both deep brain stimulation and nerve cutting should be thoroughly discussed with a specialist to evaluate their potential benefits and risks. The decision to undergo surgical treatment for cervical dystonia should be made on an individual basis, taking into consideration the severity of symptoms, overall health, and personal preferences.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Surgical Treatments for Cervical Dystonia

May provide long-lasting relief from symptomsRisks associated with any surgical procedure
Can improve quality of life by reducing muscle spasms and abnormal head movementsPotential side effects or complications, such as infection, bleeding, or anesthesia-related risks
Alternative treatment option for individuals who do not respond to other treatmentsRecovery period and rehabilitation after surgery

surgical treatments for cervical dystonia

Clinical Trials for Cervical Dystonia Treatment

As the field of medicine continues to advance, new treatments for cervical dystonia are being explored through clinical trials. These trials aim to test innovative interventions, medications, and management strategies that can potentially provide better outcomes for individuals with cervical dystonia. Participating in clinical trials can offer access to cutting-edge treatments and contribute to the development of new options for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of this condition.

If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial for cervical dystonia, there are a few avenues you can explore. Firstly, consulting with your healthcare provider can help you understand the available trials and determine if you meet the eligibility criteria. Your doctor can provide guidance on the potential benefits and risks associated with participating in a clinical trial.

Additionally, reputable clinical trial databases can be valuable resources for finding ongoing trials. Websites like ClinicalTrials.gov, which is maintained by the National Institutes of Health, allow you to search for trials based on location, eligibility criteria, and treatment options. Remember to carefully review the trial details and consult with a healthcare professional before deciding to enroll.

clinical trials for cervical dystonia


Coping and Support for Cervical Dystonia

Cervical dystonia can have a significant impact on your physical and emotional well-being. The discomfort in social situations, limitations in daily activities, and feelings of isolation and depression can be overwhelming. However, it’s essential to remember that you are not alone in your journey with cervical dystonia. There are various coping mechanisms and support systems available to help you navigate through the challenges.

Many organizations and support groups provide valuable information, resources, and understanding for individuals and their families coping with cervical dystonia. Engaging with these communities can provide a sense of belonging, validation, and shared experiences. Additionally, your healthcare provider can guide you to local support groups or trusted online resources that can offer support and guidance specific to your needs.

support for cervical dystonia patients

Coping Strategies for Cervical Dystonia

Here are some coping strategies that may assist you in managing the challenges posed by cervical dystonia:

  • Education: Learn as much as you can about cervical dystonia, its symptoms, and treatment options. Understanding the condition can empower you to make informed decisions and advocate for yourself.
  • Seek Emotional Support: Connect with others going through similar experiences to share and receive emotional support. It can be helpful to have people who understand and empathize with your struggles.
  • Practice Relaxation Techniques: Explore relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga. These techniques can help reduce stress and manage muscle tension.
  • Engage in Physical Activities: Participate in physical activities or exercises that are safe and suitable for your condition. Consult with your healthcare provider or a physical therapist to develop an exercise plan tailored to your needs.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Establish realistic goals for yourself and prioritize self-care. Break larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps to reduce stress and prevent overwhelm.

Support Resources for Cervical Dystonia

Here are some organizations and online resources that provide support and information for individuals with cervical dystonia:

Dystonia Medical Research Foundationwww.dystonia-foundation.org
The Dystonia Societywww.dystonia.org.uk
Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Researchwww.michaeljfox.org

Remember, coping with cervical dystonia is a unique journey, and finding the right support is crucial. Reach out to these organizations or consult with your healthcare provider for guidance on coping strategies and available resources tailored to your specific needs.

Preparing for Your Appointment

To make the most of your appointment with a healthcare provider, it is helpful to come prepared. Here are some steps to follow before your cervical dystonia appointment:

  1. Gather information about your family’s medical history. Note any genetic or neurological conditions that may be relevant to your diagnosis.
  2. Make a list of all the medications and dietary supplements you are currently taking. Include the dosage and frequency of each medication.
  3. Write down any questions or concerns you have about your condition or treatment options. This will ensure that you don’t forget anything important during the appointment.

During your appointment, don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider the following questions:

  • What treatment options are available for cervical dystonia?
  • What are the potential benefits and risks of each treatment?
  • How long will it take to see improvements in my symptoms?
  • Are there any lifestyle modifications that can help manage my symptoms?
  • Are there any clinical trials or new treatments that I should consider?

By being prepared and asking the right questions, you can have a more productive and informed discussion with your healthcare provider about your cervical dystonia and its treatment options.

Key Points to Remember:
Come prepared with your family’s medical history, medication list, and a list of questions.
Ask your healthcare provider about the available treatment options and their benefits and risks.
Inquire about lifestyle modifications and any ongoing clinical trials or new treatments.

Factual Data Sources for Cervical Dystonia Treatment

When seeking information on cervical dystonia treatment, it is essential to rely on trustworthy sources that provide factual and up-to-date data. The following sources offer comprehensive and reliable information on cervical dystonia and its treatment options:

Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic is a renowned medical center that provides reliable information on various medical conditions, including cervical dystonia. Their website offers comprehensive resources, including articles, treatment guidelines, and research updates, supported by a team of medical professionals specializing in neurology.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is a reliable source of information on neurological disorders. Their website offers a wealth of resources dedicated to cervical dystonia, including treatment options, research studies, and information for healthcare professionals and patients.

Expert Reviews on Dystonia Treatment

Expert reviews and research papers on cervical dystonia treatment can provide valuable insights into the latest advancements and treatment strategies. Publications such as “Dystonia and Dystonic Syndromes” by Albanese et al. and “Botulinum Toxin in Clinical Dermatology” by Hexsel and Butterfoss are examples of credible sources that offer in-depth analysis and evidence-based recommendations for cervical dystonia treatment.

It is important to note that while these sources provide valuable information, it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice. Healthcare providers have the expertise to evaluate your specific condition and recommend the most suitable treatment plan based on your individual needs.

Lifestyle Modifications for Cervical Dystonia

In addition to medical treatments, certain lifestyle modifications can help manage the symptoms of cervical dystonia. Stress management techniques, relaxation exercises, and exploring complementary therapies can provide relief and improve your overall well-being.

Stress Management Techniques

Stress can worsen the signs and symptoms of cervical dystonia, so incorporating stress management techniques into your daily routine is essential. Here are some techniques you can try:

  • Relaxation exercises: Practice deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery to promote relaxation and reduce stress levels.
  • Meditation: Engage in mindfulness meditation to calm the mind, reduce stress, and enhance your overall sense of well-being.
  • Yoga: Participate in gentle yoga classes that focus on stretching, breathing, and relaxation to help alleviate muscle tension and improve flexibility.
  • Tai Chi: Explore the gentle movements of Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese martial art, which can help improve balance, body awareness, and reduce stress levels.

Relaxation Techniques

Incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine can significantly improve your symptoms of cervical dystonia. Consider the following techniques:

  • Deep breathing: Take slow, deep breaths, focusing on the sensation of air entering and leaving your body. Deep breathing can help relax your mind and body.
  • Massage: Regularly treat yourself to a gentle neck and shoulder massage to relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation.
  • Heat therapy: Apply heat packs or take warm showers to relax the muscles in your neck and shoulder area, helping to reduce pain and discomfort.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: Practice systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups to release muscle tension and promote a sense of calm.

By adopting these lifestyle modifications and incorporating stress management and relaxation techniques into your daily routine, you can effectively manage the symptoms of cervical dystonia and improve your overall quality of life.


Cervical dystonia is a complex condition that can significantly impact the lives of those affected. While there is no cure, there are various treatment options available to help manage the symptoms and improve overall well-being. Medications, such as botulinum toxin injections and oral muscle relaxants, can provide relief by reducing muscle contractions. Therapies, including sensory tricks, heat packs and massage, and targeted exercises, can help relax the neck muscles and improve flexibility. In more severe cases, surgical procedures like deep brain stimulation or nerve cutting may be considered.

Participating in clinical trials can provide access to potential innovative treatments and advancements in the field of cervical dystonia. It is also essential to seek support from healthcare professionals and connect with support groups to better cope with the challenges of the condition. By staying informed about the latest research and advancements, individuals with cervical dystonia can actively navigate their treatment journey and strive for better symptom management and quality of life.

Remember, everyone’s experience with cervical dystonia is unique, and it may take time to find the most effective treatment approach. Be patient, stay positive, and continue working closely with your healthcare team to find the best strategies that work for you. With the right support and a comprehensive treatment plan, you can take control of your cervical dystonia and live a fulfilling life.


What is cervical dystonia?

Cervical dystonia, also known as spasmodic torticollis, is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions in the neck, resulting in abnormal movements and postures.

What are the treatment options for cervical dystonia?

The treatment options for cervical dystonia include medications, therapies, surgical procedures, participation in clinical trials, and lifestyle modifications.

How is cervical dystonia diagnosed?

Cervical dystonia can often be diagnosed through a physical examination. In some cases, additional tests such as blood tests or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be recommended to rule out any underlying conditions causing the symptoms.

What medications are used to treat cervical dystonia?

Medications commonly used to treat cervical dystonia include botulinum toxin injections and oral muscle relaxants.

What therapies can help manage the symptoms of cervical dystonia?

Sensory tricks, heat packs and massage, and exercises that improve neck strength and flexibility can be beneficial in managing the symptoms of cervical dystonia.

Are there surgical procedures for cervical dystonia?

Yes, surgical procedures such as deep brain stimulation and nerve cutting can be considered as treatment options for cervical dystonia.

Are there any ongoing clinical trials for cervical dystonia treatment?

Yes, there are ongoing clinical trials testing new treatments, interventions, and tests for cervical dystonia. Participating in these trials can provide access to potentially innovative and more effective treatment options.

Is there support available for individuals with cervical dystonia?

Yes, there are organizations and support groups that provide information and support for individuals and their families dealing with cervical dystonia. Healthcare providers can guide individuals to local support groups or trusted online resources.

How can I prepare for my appointment with a healthcare provider?

It is helpful to gather information about the medical history of family members, as well as a list of all medications and dietary supplements being taken. It is also recommended to write down any questions about the condition or treatment options to ensure that all concerns are addressed during the appointment.

Where can I find trusted information on cervical dystonia treatment?

Trusted sources for information on cervical dystonia treatment include Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and expert reviews on dystonia treatment.

Are there any lifestyle modifications that can help manage cervical dystonia symptoms?

Yes, stress management techniques such as relaxation exercises, meditation, and deep breathing can be beneficial. Exploring complementary therapies like yoga or tai chi may also provide some relief.

Source Links