What is torticollis?Torticollis (cervical dystonia or spasmodic torticollis) is a type of movement disorder, in which the muscles controlling the neck cause sustained twisting or frequent jerking. In torticollis, certain muscles controlling the neck undergo repetitive or sustained contraction, causing the neck to jerk or twist to the side. Cervical dystonia causes forward twisting, and is called
antecollis. Backward twisting is known as retrocollis. The abnormal posture caused by torticollis is often debilitating, and is usually painful.
Torticollis most commonly begins between age 30- 60, with females affected twice as often as males. According to the National Spasmodic Torticollis Association, torticollis affects 83,000 people in the United States. Dystonia tends to become more severe during the first months or years after onset, and may spread to other regions, especially the jaw, arm, or leg. Torticollis should not be confused with other causes of abnormal neck posture, such as orthopedic or congenital problems.
Torticollis may cause permanent facial deformity if it is not resolved in the first year. Physical therapy is the treatment of choice, and is almost always curative. Your doctor will either show you how to do the therapy or refer you to a physical therapist. It should be essentially gone within three months of therapy, or an orhtopedist should do a more detailed evaluation for other possible causes of the torticollis, which could be significant. If physical therapy doesn't do the trick for congenital muscular torticollis, the sternocleidomastoid muscle will need to be surgically lengthened.