treatments for cervical dystonia

4 Cervical Dystonia Treatments

Effective Strategies for Relieving Cervical Dystonia-Related Muscle Spasms

Cervical dystonia is most common in middle-aged adults. This rare condition occurs when the muscles of the neck involuntarily contract, which causes the head to turn to one side. This painful disorder also goes by the name spasmodic torticollis, with symptoms often beginning quite gradually.

This article will explore the different ways to treat muscle spasms, including Xeomin Botox treatments and more caused by cervical dystonia. What should you know? How can you reduce or put a halt to these involuntary muscle contractions?

Warning Signs of Muscle Spasms

Below are warning signs of muscle spasms:

  • Muscle twitching.
  • Muscle cramping.
  • Muscle stiffness.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Involuntary muscle contractions.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Reduced range of motion.
  • Visible muscle contractions.
  • Muscle tremors.

What Causes Muscle Spasms?

Muscle spasms, or involuntary muscle contractions, can be caused by various factors. These spasms often result from disruptions in the normal functioning of muscles and nerves. Some common causes include:

Dehydration: Inadequate fluid intake can lead to an imbalance of electrolytes, affecting muscle function.

Overuse or Fatigue: Excessive physical activity or repetitive motions can strain muscles, causing spasms.

Electrolyte Imbalance: Low levels of essential electrolytes like potassium, calcium, and magnesium can trigger muscle spasms.

Nerve Compression: Pressure on nerves from conditions like herniated discs or carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to spasms.

Muscle Injuries: Strains, sprains, or direct trauma to muscles can induce spasms.

Medication Side Effects: Some drugs may lead to muscle cramps and spasms as a side effect.

Certain Medical Conditions: Conditions such as dystonia, multiple sclerosis, and ALS may cause chronic muscle spasms.

Poor Blood Circulation: Reduced blood flow to muscles can result in spasms, especially in the legs.

Nutritional Deficiencies: A lack of vitamins and minerals in the diet, such as B-complex vitamins or calcium, can contribute to spasms.

Treatments for Cervical Dystonia Symptoms

In most cases, doctors aren’t entirely sure why cervical dystonia happens. There’s some evidence that the basal ganglia part of the brain that modulates muscle movements experiences some kind of dysfunction. Dystonia may also happen due to psychiatric medication side effects, traumatic brain injuries, Parkinson’s disease, or a genetic mutation.

The first warning signs of muscle spasms may include a hard and tender muscle on one side or twitching the muscle.

Usually, this condition is diagnosed upon a physical examination by your doctor. So, then, how is it treated? Here are the top treatments for cervical dystonia.

1. Xeomin Botox Treatments

Botulinum toxin injections work to paralyze the muscle. While often used to smooth facial wrinkles and as an anti-aging tool, this treatment can also help prevent muscle spasms and contractions caused by cervical dystonia.

In fact, many people notice improvements with this type of treatment. However, treatments often must occur every three to four months to be effective. Alongside this, your doctor may also recommend oral medications, which can further help the muscles relax and prevent the need for higher dosages of Botox.

2. Oral Medications

Common medications used to treat cervical dystonia may include:

  • Levodopa (Dopaminergic agents): Often used to help with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, these medications increase dopamine, which helps regulate body movements and coordination.
  • Benztropine or trihexyphenidyl (Anticholinergic agents): These medications are also used for Parkinson’s patients to help control movement symptoms.
  • Baclofen: This is a muscle relaxant that is often used to treat muscle spasms and stiffness.
  • Clonazepam: This medication works to help calm the nervous system, which can prevent muscle spasms. It’s further used for seizures and even panic disorders.

When prescribed any of the medications above, always follow the directions given to you by your doctor and pharmacist. In some cases, side effects may include fatigue or memory issues. If you experience any of these, discuss your options with your doctor.

3. Deep Brain Stimulation

This is technically a surgical and very invasive intervention. Often used as more of a last resort, deep brain stimulation involves a small hole being cut into the skull. A thin wire is then placed in an area of the brain responsible for movement control.

Electrical impulses are then sent along the wire to disrupt the nerve signals that cause the neck muscles to spasm. In many ways, this works to prevent the spasm and “rewire” this neural pathway.

Other surgical interventions may involve physically cutting the nerves involved. Yet, this is also a very last-resort treatment option.

4. Physical Therapy

Physical therapy aims to help restore function and strength where issues or weaknesses exist. When it comes to cervical dystonia, this often means neck stretching and flexibility exercises, along with manual therapy to prevent muscle spasms and soothe the area.

A recent 2022 scientific review examining cervical dystonia and physical therapy treatment further determined that physical therapy and active home exercises were an effective and efficient way to approach treatment for this condition. In turn, physical therapy can help improve pain, function, and overall quality of life.

What Else Should You Know?

While there is no cure for cervical dystonia, and the cause is often unknown, treatment may include multiple different approaches. At the same time, some people’s symptoms go away without treatment.

Here are a few more tips to combat symptoms of cervical dystonia:

  • Use heat to calm and relax aggravated and tight muscles. Place the heat pad on your neck for 15 minutes at a time, ensuring a towel between the pad and your skin.
  • If stress is a trigger, work toward integrating stress management techniques into your daily life.
  • Some examples include deep breathing strategies, meditation, yoga, exercise, and journaling.
  • Stretch and move regularly. Moving your body regularly can help loosen up the muscles. In particular, if you work at a desk all day, you might benefit from daily neck stretches to combat the effects of poor posture.
  • Stay hydrated and ensure you eat a healthy diet, including adequate electrolytes, to ensure proper muscle function and contractions.

For other concerns or questions, it’s best to ask your doctor who diagnosed you as they know you and your situation the best.

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