Cervical dystonia, also known as spasmodic torticollis or wryneck, is a debilitating movement disorder characterized by painful, involuntary muscle spasms that cause jerking, twisting, tremoring, and other awkward postures and movements of the head and neck. The muscle spasms can also extend into the mouth, jaw and tongue (oromandibular dystonia).
While the exact cause is unknown, many dystonia patients report a precipitating event - an incident of physical trauma directed at the head and neck. In fact, medical researchers increasingly are naming head and neck trauma as a primary cause of dystonia onset; however, onset of symptoms may be delayed for several months or years after trauma.
Researchers believe that head/neck trauma triggers changes in the brainstem, including abnormal nerve transmission and neurochemical production. This disruption of brain function can lead to dystonia symptoms.
Common sources of trauma include blows to the head, whiplash and/or concussion sustained as a result of motor vehicle accidents, falls, and through high-impact sports such as surfing, soccer, gymnastics and horseback riding. Any of the above may cause ligaments supporting the head and neck to be sprained (stretched), which forces the upper cervical (neck) vertebrae out of their normal biomechanical position. This upper cervical misalignment can affect brain function and lead to the onset of dystonia.
A chiropractic technique that focuses upon the alignment of the upper cervical vertebrae, known as upper cervical care, provides a unique approach for treatment of cervical dystonia. Upper cervical chiropractic care utilizes two diagnostic tools - thermal imaging and digital x-rays - to accurately assess an upper cervical injury. After determining a diagnosis of cervical injury, each patient's injured neck is corrected by administering a precise adjustment by hand on a specially designed knee chest table. Many patients notice improvement in dystonia symptoms with just a few treatments.
Many cases of cervical dystonia are successfully treated with upper cervical chiropractic care. The number of treatments required per individual varies according to the severity of the cervical injury and dystonia symptoms.
With over 20 years of experience as a specialist in the upper cervical spine, Upper Cervical Chiropractor Dr. Erin Elster, D.C., has been working with individuals with dystonia for the past two years on Maui. For more information on upper cervical care and trauma-induced injuries, contact Dr. Elster in Kahului at (808) 866-6551 or www.erinelster.com.