Torticollis refers to a category of disorders that result in an abnormal twisting or extension of the neck muscles. The neck begins to twist to one particular side in torticollis. Individuals with a family history of this condition may develop this condition gradually, while acute torticollis may occur in those who have suffered trauma.
Torticollis may also occur as an adverse reaction to certain medications.
When torticollis occurs in those with a family history of the condition, it is known as spasmodic torticollis. The twisting of the muscles of the neck occurs spasmodically and the onset of the disorder is usually between the ages of 31 and 50 years.
If the condition is left untreated, it may become permanent. Acute torticollis develops when the neck is bent or twisted too much beyond its normal limit. The individual may suffer discomfort when holding the head straight or while rotating the head to one side. Pain is also experienced when the head is moved towards the opposite side. The muscles of the neck on the affected side will become tender and painful. During medical examination of this condition, the doctor will also examine the motor and nerve functioning in order to rule out the possibility of injury to the spinal cord. In spasmodic torticollis, since the muscles on one side tend to abnormally contract, the head is likely to remain turned to one side only. The muscles of the neck and in the area between the shoulder and neck will also become strained and tender. In acute torticollis, the individual may find it very discomforting to turn the head to one particular side. Most cases of acute torticollis are not life threatening. In case, neck spasms occur along with other symptoms such as difficulties in swallowing or breathing, then it may be indicative that it is also affecting the central nervous system. Other such symptoms include numbness in the arms and legs, weakness, impairment of speech and difficulty in waking.
Treatment for torticollis involves relaxation of the neck muscles through medication. The condition generally resolves in a matter of some weeks. Some individuals may experience persisting neck problems that continue for months and even years.
It is important to avoid stressful or anxious situations as stress tends to aggravate the symptoms. The symptoms appear to get better during sleep and hence it is essential to get lots of rest. Resting for brief periods of time throughout the day will also help to ease the discomfort.
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