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Neck Strengthening Exercises for Spasmodic Torticollis
Spasmodic torticollis is a condition where the neck muscles create spasm, causing the neck to tilt or twist to one side. It is a rare disorder that may occur at any age as a result of trauma, stroke, tumors, toxic exposure or drug side-effects according to MayoClinic.com. Since part of the problem is a muscle spasm, speak with your doctor before starting neck strengthening exercises that could increase spasm.
Strong muscles can reduce the pain of spasmodic torticollis, according to SpasmodicTorticollis.org. Yoga and Pilates work to improve strength and lengthen muscles, helping reduce tension in the neck. If the torticollis is a result of an injury or imbalance in muscle strength of the neck or shoulders, improving the weak areas should be top priority. Doing neck flexion and extension with your hand as resistance is a simple strengthening exercise that doesn't require you to use a range of motion. Shoulder shrugs with weights help improve upper back and shoulder strength to stabilize the neck.
It is important to keep your entire body strong to support spine, promote proper posture and reduce spasms resulting from weakness. Swimming, yoga, walking and Tai Chi provide good workouts that do not add to jarring in the neck, possibly increasing pain. These types of aerobic activity should be done at least three times per week. SpasmodicTorticollis.org recommends doing strength training early in the day, before the day's stress and gravity work to fatigue neck muscles. Aside from increasing neck strength, perform traditional core workout exercises, such as chest presses, rowing and leg presses, for a strong core with spine support.
Torticollis in infants is easier to correct as compared to adults. Passive motion stretches are utilized with a parent or physical therapist helping to stretch the neck and shoulder muscles to relax the spasm. One hand may hold the left shoulder down while gently rotating the baby's head to look to the right. Another stretch holds the a right shoulder in place while trying to touch the left ear to the left shoulder in a gentle stretch. These movements can be done by adults and alternated on each side to get a full stretch and regain mobility in the child's head.
If your doctor is unable to treat an underlying condition causing torticollis, there may be no cure for the condition. Your doctor may prescribe botulinum toxin to relax the muscles through paralysis to reduce spasm. Other drugs such as muscle relaxants may help alleviate spasms, according to MayoClinic.com. With no known cure, your doctor's goal is to help you manage pain and reduce symptoms through stretching and strengthening. Severe conditions may require surgery.
Explore In Depth
- Mayo Clinic: Spasmodic Torticollis
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- Nilesh K & Mukherji S. Congenital muscular torticollis. Ann Maxillofac Surg. 2013 Jul-Dec;3(2):198-200. doi: 10.4103/2231-0746.119222
- Macias CG, Gan V. (May 2019). Acquired torticollis in children. Bachur RG, Phillips WA, Isaacson GC, eds. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate Inc.
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- Temple University Health System. (2020). What Is Torticollis?
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- Castelão M, Marques RE, Duarte GS, et al. Botulinum toxin type A therapy for cervical dystonia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;12(12):CD003633. Published 2017 Dec 12. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003633.pub3
With more than 15 years of professional writing experience, Kimberlee finds it fun to take technical mumbo-jumbo and make it fun! Her first career was in financial services and insurance.