Sat, Jul 23, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Stiff neck might be indicator of cervical dystonia: physician

By Jonathan Chin  /  Staff writer, with CNA

A stiff neck accompanied by muscle twitches might indicate a condition known as cervical or neck dystonia, caused by the muscular hyperextension of the neck, Tainan Municipal An-Nan Hospital neurologist Tsai Ming-chun (蔡銘駿) said on Monday.

Neck dystonia occurs when muscles involuntarily contract, leading to a tilted head that is accompanied by muscle jerks and twitches, Tsai said, adding that while the symptoms can be relieved by massaging the affected areas, spasms or compressed nerves might lead to extreme pain.

The condition is classified by the position of the head, he said, adding that it is called laterocollis when the head tilts to left or right, retrocollis when it tilts backward and anterocollis when it tilts forward.

While severe cases usually get reported, patients suffering from mild or moderate neck dystonia usually do not seek medical help, Tsai said.

In mild cases, patients might have the feeling that their clothes fit tighter on one shoulder or have trouble craning their necks, he said.

Tsai said that a patient, surnamed Ho (何), started showing signs of neck dystonia after working overtime for five months, and also started suffering from insomnia due to persistent stiffness and pain in his arms, shoulders and neck, adding that his condition did not improve after taking a day off to sleep for more than 10 hours.

Hoe was diagnosed with neck dystonia and was treated with botulinum toxin injections, known as Botox, Tsai said.

Botulinum toxin is a neural signal blocker that is used for treating neck dystonia, Tsai said, adding that the injections usually take between one and two weeks to take effect.

The treatment is effective for four to six months and patients receive between three and four injections per year, with more than 70 percent of the patients reporting total recovery or significant improvement, Tsai added.

However, Tsai warned that botox is known to have a number of side effects, including localized muscular weakness, difficulty in swallowing and fatigue.

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