What is Cervical Dystonia?
Cervical dystonia, also known as spasmodic torticollis, is a persistent, often excruciating, neurological condition in which spasms in the neck muscles produce repetitive contortions of the neck and make it difficult or impossible for the sufferer to hold their head up. The condition impairs normal motion and can cause relentless neck pain. Cervical dystonia can affect anyone at any age, but the average age of onset is 41, and women are affected twice as frequently as men. Symptoms typically develop over time. Spasms may be continuous or sporadic, but the involuntary contractions of the muscles are often painful.
Cervical dystonia can be treated by a variety of medical specialists such as neurologists, specialists in movement related ailments and physical therapists. There is no definitive cure for cervical dystonia, but there are several treatment options. The most frequently used treatment is Botox. Botox is the first choice therapy for many patients, and for the majority of them, works effectively enough that it is the only treatment they need to manage their symptoms.
Therapeutic doses of BOTOX®(onabotulinumtoxinA) injected into the muscles in the neck and shoulders is often an effective treatment for the muscles spasms, unusual head position and neck that are common with cervical dystonia. In the average patient, the effects of Botox last about three months. Physical therapy involving stretching exercises and in some cases a neck brace can be used in addition to Botox or other medications and therapies and have been shown to ease symptoms. In severe situations, or in cases that do not respond to other therapies, surgery can be performed. Surgery may involve either severing the nerve leading to the affected muscle or removing a piece of the muscle. While the effects of surgery are longer-lasting than other treatment options, this option carries the usual risks of surgery and should always be a last resort.
The results of a major clinical trial suggest that a large percentage of people with cervical dystonia who were given BOTOX® saw notable improvement in head posture, decreased neck pain and and increased function during normal activities.
Some effects of BOTOX® include:
- Alleviate, or even eliminate, neck pain arising from muscle contractions
- Correct head position
- Enhance your performance of regular activities
Outcomes will vary among individuals and some patients may need multiple doses to get the best results.
The muscle contractions are the result of hyperstimulation of the nerves controlling the neck. When injected into the muscles in and near the neck, the signals from these nerves is blocked, as are the pain signals travelling back along these nerves to the brain. As a result, both muscles spasms are minimized or eliminated for as long as three months at a time.
BOTOX® is frequently used in conjunction with physical therapy and sometimes oral medications. While surgery is possible, it is best reserved as a last resort for those who can’t get relief from other therapies. Talk to your doctor to find out whether cervical dystonia treatment with BOTOX® might alleviate your symptoms.