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Understanding Cervical Dystonia Symptoms and Treatment


Submitted by Vitality Physical Medicine


Cervical Dystonia is a painful neurological condition that causes an abnormal position or posture of the neck and shoulder due to involuntary muscle contractions.


Understanding the Disorder

Cervical dystonia manifests as abnormal muscle contractions in the neck, leading to involuntary head tilting or tremors. Contrary to common belief, it is not solely a muscular issue but rather a neurological dysfunction characterized by misfiring nerves.

It can be caused by stroke, Parkinson’s disease, or traumatic brain injury. Sometimes, the cause is simply unknown.


Symptoms and Diagnosis

The hallmark symptoms of cervical dystonia include persistent head tilt and tremors, which can significantly impact an individual’s daily life. It commonly begins in middle age and is a lifelong condition. Other symptoms beyond abnormal position of the head or neck can include pain, discomfort, and tightness.


Distinguishing from Other Conditions

It’s crucial to differentiate cervical dystonia from common neck injuries like sprains. While neck sprains are typically temporary and result from muscle strain, cervical dystonia arises from neurological abnormalities and tends to persist over time.


Treatment Approaches

While there is no cure for cervical dystonia, there are options for reducing symptoms and discomfort. Botulinum toxin injections are a primary treatment for cervical dystonia, effectively targeting overactive muscles and alleviating symptoms such as pain and tremors. These injections require periodic adjustments to address evolving symptoms and may be complemented by physical therapy to optimize outcomes.

These injections function by interrupting the communication between nerves and specific muscles, diminishing the overactivity that characterizes cervical dystonia. It’s important to note that treatment isn’t static; adjustments may be necessary over time. As months or years pass, different muscles or areas within the muscles may require attention, possibly leading to alterations in dosage or injection sites. Typically, patients undergo botulinum toxin injections approximately every 3–6 months to sustain symptom management effectively.

“Botulinum toxin injections significantly relieve cervical dystonia discomfort from muscle stiffness, improve posture, and improve quality of life for my patients. These injections directly target the overactive muscles,” says Joseph Brooks, DO.


     Dr. Brooks is board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation and treats patients with cervical dystonia at his clinic, Vitality Physical Medicine in Davenport, IA. Additionally, Dr. Brooks treats spasticity, chronic migraine, and bruxism with botulinum toxin injections. Patients can schedule an evaluation with Dr. Brooks at VitalityPhysicalMedicine.com or by calling 563-424-6400.