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Cervical Dystonia Sufferers Find Relief With Upper Cervical Chiropractic

By Dr. Erin L. Elster, D.C.

Many people aren't aware of the relationship between upper cervical (neck) trauma and cervical dystonia (spasmodic torticollis.)  With all that modern science has accomplished, there are still more unanswered questions than answered ones.  This is also true in the case of dystonia research.  It's been difficult to pinpoint the exact reason(s) why certain people suffer from cervical dystonia; however, research is beginning to point toward upper cervical trauma as an underlying cause.

The upper cervical area of the spine refers to the two vertebrae located at the top of the spine, directly underneath the head.  C1 (known as Atlas,) along with C2 (known as Axis,) are chiefly responsible for the rotation and flexibility of the head and neck.  Like the rest of the vertebrae, they are extremely vulnerable to injury and trauma, especially trauma to the head through auto or sporting accidents.

Because so many nerves transmit through the cervical region (to and from the brain,) trauma to this area results in problems throughout the body.  This is where the relationship between the upper cervical area and cervical dystonia becomes evident. If these vertebrae become displaced, even slightly, the muscle spasms and pinched nerves typical of cervical dystonia can occur.  Unless the neck injury is addressed, the dystonia symptoms persist. 

Chiropractic care involves correcting the position of these injured cervical vertebrae, particularly C1 and C2.  Realigning these vertebrae may reduce or eliminate cervical dystonia.

Cervical dystonia affects the neck and sometimes the shoulders. Symptoms include involuntary contraction of the neck muscles, causing abnormal movements and awkward posture of the head and neck.  The movements may be sustained (“tonic”), jerky (“clonic”), or a combination. Many patients experience head tremor, hand tremor, or both. Positions of the neck include laterocollis (head tilts to the side); retrocollis (head tilts back); and anterocollis (head tilts forward.) Muscle spasms and pinched nerves in the neck may result in considerable pain and discomfort.

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 symptoms.  A first visit to a chiropractor usually involves a spinal exam and diagnostic tests such as x-rays.  From there, the practitioner will determine a care plan.  Patients usually notice an improvement in symptoms during the first days or weeks of treatment.

Dr. Erin Elster is an Upper Cervical Chiropractor.  For more information about Cervical Dystonia, Torticollis, and Upper Cervical Chiropractic care, please contact Dr. Elster in Kahului, Maui, Hawaii at 808-866-6551 or www.erinelster.com.