Cervical Dystonia

Cervical Dystonia refers to abnormal involuntary movements affecting the neck muscles so that the head moves in relation to the trunk. The alternative term is “Spasmodic Torticollis”; this term is not used now frequently (but means the same thing).

Cervical Dystonia affects women more commonly than men; it is almost twice as common in women than in men. The average age of onset is in the mid 40s, but onset can occur between the age of 30 and 70 years. There is no obvious precipitant, but research indicates that people with cervical dystonia and a history of more frequent exposure to car accidents with hospital attendance and have a history of more frequent surgical procedures (see the section on Environmental Factors).

Usually cervical dystonia responds very well to injections with botulinum toxin; most patients obtain 70% + improvement in their movement disorder with 3 monthly injections. In a small proportion of patients (10-15%) with cervical dystonia they may later, after 5-10 years, develop involvement of an adjacent body part such as voice tremor, shoulder involvement or focal hand dystonia.

20% of patients will, on enquiry, have a other family member affected; this family member may be quite distant (a second cousin for example). Usually the other family member will have cervical dystonia, but also can have other types of adult onset dystonia such as blepharospasm or focal hand dystonia.