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Cervical Dystonia - Overview

Cervical dystonia is actually the most common type of focal dystonia. Its symptoms are abnormal squeezing and twisting muscle contractions in the head and neck area. Repeated muscle contractions eventually result in abnormal position of the head and inadequate posture.

In dystonia, muscle contractions are involuntary and simply cannot be controlled. Cervical dystonia is a common medical condition that predominantly affects middle-aged women. Still, cervical dystonia can affect people of all ages including infants. Even though there is no specific cure for the condition there are some treatments available which can efficiently reduce the intensity of symptoms. The treatment is basically medicamentous and only in severe form of cervical dystonia patients undergo surgery.

The symptoms of cervical dystonia develop gradually. In majority of cases there are abnormal movements of the head in different directions. For example, the chin is pulled towards the shoulder or the ear. The head can either lean in one direction or it changes directions. Apart from abnormal posture and head position the condition also causes pain in the neck. The pain may radiate toward the shoulders and sometimes patients complain about severe headache.

Unlike primary cervical dystonia which develops due to some neurological disorder or family history, secondary cervical dystonia develops as a consequence of physical trauma.

Treatment for Cervical Dystonia

The primary treatment for cervical dystonia includes botulinum toxin injections. The toxin is injected directly into the affected muscles and it can effectively stop the muscle contractions. The effects of botulinum toxic last for approximately 3-4 months. This is why this treatment must be repeated over a certain period of time. Furthermore, patients may be prescribed Parkinson's drugs. These medications can ease contractions and they can be combined with botulinum toxin. And finally, muscle relaxants can be prescribed to patients suffering from cervical dystonia. The most common muscle relaxants prescribed for this purpose include Valium, Ativan, Klonopin and Kemstro.

The effects of medications can be enhanced with improvement of posture obtained by stretching and strengthening exercises. Physical therapy can also be prescribed.

The symptoms of cervical dystonia can be improved with reduction of stress, plenty of rest and sleep and relaxation. There are also certain maneuvers called 'sensory tricks', that include the touching of the affected area or nearby body parts. This may stop the muscle spasms.

And finally, if conservative treatment fails to provide with desirable effects patients suffering from cervical dystonia may have to undergo surgery. This condition is generally treated with deep brain stimulation. One more surgical option is cutting the affected muscles and nerves.

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