Treating spasmodic torticollis (also called cervical dystonia) and other movement disorders takes time and patience. Sometimes, you need to visit several different types of medical professionals before you find the treatment that works best for you. In many cases, the key to successful torticollis treatment is perseverance.
Spotting the Symptoms Early
The cause of this condition is largely mysterious. Spasmodic torticollis differs from other forms of torticollis in that it usually occurs gradually and runs in families. Other forms include congenital torticollis (a usually temporary condition affecting newborns) and posttraumatic cervical dystonia (usually characterized by a sudden onset caused by traumatic injury). Other causes include medication, toxins (such as drugs), central nervous system tumors, and other disorders such as TMJ. Anyone at any age can develop this condition, but it usually forms between the ages of 31 and 50.
Spasmodic torticollis often starts out as tenderness and pain in neck muscles. You may also experience tremors or muscle spasms in your neck muscles at the onset of this condition. Over time, your head may tilt up, down, or to one side involuntarily, and may become stiff and difficult to move from that position. Without treatment, you might eventually not be able to move your head in any other direction without extreme pain. The soonest possible treatment is best not only to spare you unnecessary pain, but also to increase the likelihood of successful treatment. In addition to immobility of your neck and muscle pain, you may experience headaches caused by muscle tension and the unnatural position of your head.
Running the Treatment Gamut
Given that this condition seems largely to affect the neck, many people bring this movement disorder to a chiropractor for treatment. Chiropractic care can help relieve muscle tension and realign nearby vertebrae impacted by the unnatural tilt of your head. Other commonly sought out treatment options include neuromuscular therapy focusing on the neck, muscle relaxer medications, physical therapy, and even acupuncture. Each of these treatment options are good choices because they can relieve tension in nearby muscles and sometimes do help with spasmodic torticollis. Unfortunately, they don’t always cause your neck muscles to release so that your head can return to a more comfortable position.
In some cases, people who do not find relief with these treatments may feel that there are no other options left. Physicians who are not as familiar with this condition may prescribe painkillers and antidepressants to help you cope with this debilitating condition when other treatment options seem to show no results.
Renewed Hope With Oral Appliances and Botox
In 2012, researchers successfully found that some cases of spasmodic torticollis are linked to your mouth and jaw. Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), a painful disorder that may limit the mobility of your jaw and cause jaw pain, has been found to coincide with spasmodic torticollis. Muscle tension in the jaw can affect your neck and shoulder, pulling the muscles of your neck in unnatural directions as a result. Even if TMJ does not play a role in your condition, oral appliance therapy used to treat TMJ can relieve your symptoms. An oral appliance can help relieve stress on your jaw muscles in order to relieve pressure on your overtaxed neck muscles. This change will allow your neck muscles to return to their optimal position, restoring your range of movement.
Another treatment option is Botox. The FDA approved Botox as a treatment option for this movement disorder in 2010 based on clinical studies where patients showed improvement in their symptoms after Botox injections. These injections relax target contracted muscles so that they release, restoring mobility.
No one should have to live with pain. If you suffer from spasmodic torticollis and would like to learn more about your treatment options, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment with a Denver neuromuscular dentist at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado. Dr. Berry will be happy to meet with you to discuss your pain management goals and find the treatment option that is best for you.