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Neck dystonia (the medical name is cervical dystonia, or sometimes spasmodic torticollis) is uncontrollable and often painful muscle contractions in the neck which cause awkward postures and discomfort. The head generally pulls to one side, backwards or forwards. Neck dystonia is believed to be caused by incorrect messages from the brain to the muscles. It is a neurological movement disorder and should be diagnosed and treated by a neurologist specialising in movement disorders.
Symptoms of neck dystonia usually appear between the ages of 30 and 50 but sometimes affect younger or older people. Neck dystonia is the most common dystonia and affects an estimated 18,000 adults in the UK.
Treatment of neck dystonia usually involves regular injections. Sometimes drug treatments may provide benefit for some individuals. Some people find relief by applying light pressure to particular points on their neck or face. It is very much an individual experience. Click here for information on treatments
Generally, if neck dystonia starts in adulthood, it affects only one part of the body. If it spreads at all, which is unlikely, it is usually only to one other area. The progress of neck dystonia is unpredictable with symptoms varying by individual and from day to day. In some cases, it will progress gradually over a five-year period and then get no worse – in other cases, it does not progress at all.
Unfortunately there is not yet a cure for neck dystonia. However, in the vast majority of cases, dystonia does not impact intelligence or shorten a person's life span. Most people do manage to develop successful strategies for living with neck dystonia combining treatment with pain control and sensory tricks to help with social situations. If you would like to discuss, call our helpline on 0845 458 6322.
To read case studies of individuals with neck dystonia that have been featured in Dystoniamatters! click on the links below:
Last reviewed October 2011
The Dystonia Society provides the information on this page as general information only. It is not intended to provide instruction and you should not rely on this information to determine diagnosis, prognosis or a course of treatment. It should not be used in place of a professional consultation with a doctor.
The Dystonia Society is not responsible for the consequences of your decisions resulting from the use of this information, including, but not limited to, your choosing to seek or not to seek professional medical care, or from choosing or not choosing specific treatment based on the information. You should not disregard the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider because of any information you receive from us. If you have any health care questions, please consult the relevant medical practitioner.