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Torticollis

Intro

In general, acute torticollis is not life threatening. If symptoms are limited to muscle stiffness and pain, see your doctor in at least a day.

If you injure your neck but cannot reach your doctor, go immediately to a hospital's emergency department. Other medical conditions may appear to be torticollis and will need immediate medical attention. For example, anyone who experiences spasms of the neck muscles involved with swallowing or breathing or symptoms that might involve the central nervous system should be evaluated.

The following symptoms suggest injury or irritation to the central nervous system:

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Pins-and- needles feeling or numbness in your arms and legs
  • Urinary hesitancy, urinary or fecal incontinence
  • Weakness in your arms and legs
  • Impaired speech
  • Difficulty walking
Outlook

Most people with acute torticollis are successfully treated with medication. If a drug caused the spasm, it should be stopped. Spasmodic torticollis is successfully treated with local injections of botulinum A toxin in combination with medications. If these conservative measures are unsuccessful, surgery on the nerves of the neck can be attempted. After surgery, many people will often have initial relief, but most relapse after several months.

For the great majority of people with acute torticollis, the condition goes away in several days to a few weeks. A small number of people will go on to develop continuing problems with their neck  for months to years.

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