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Botulinum Toxin (Botox) Treatment For Cervical Dystonia

Botulinum Toxin (Botox) Treatment For Cervical Dystonia

What is Cervical dystonia?

Cervical dystonia, also known as spasmodic torticollis, refers to a condition caused by painful, involuntary contractions of the neck (cervical) muscles. This usually leads to the unnatural, uncontrollable tilting/twisting of the head in certain directions such as:

  • Ear towards either shoulder
  • Chin towards either shoulder
  • Chin straight up or down

The direction of the tilt/twist is inconsistent and may change as different muscles become affected. These spasms and pain can spread to the surrounding areas like the shoulders and jaw and can be debilitating to those afflicted by the disorder, being unable to keep the head upright to look straight ahead. 

Causes and risk factors

The cause of cervical dystonia is largely unknown in most patients. However, medical research has identified some possible triggers and risk factors, including:

  • Sex: Females are more likely to develop cervical dystonia compared to males
  • Age: Cervical dystonia is more likely to develop after early-mid adulthood, usually only developing after 30 years old.
  • Genetics: People with close family members suffering from cervical dystonia are more likely to develop the condition some time in their life as well
  • History of neck-related injury or disease: Cervical dystonia may be a sequela of a previous injury or disease affecting the neck muscles, persisting for years even after the initial condition has recovered.

Using Botox to address cervical dystonia

Cervical dystonia can greatly reduce one’s quality of life and also their work performance when left untreated. As it is a form of muscle disorder, cervical dystonia can be addressed with the muscle relaxant/paralysing agent Botulinum Toxin-A.

More commonly known by the trade name “Botox”, Botulinum Toxin-A is a paralysing agent derived from the Clostridium botulinum bacteria, most well-known for its uses in aesthetics medicine to smooth out facial wrinkles. Its muscle-relaxant properties are also often used to relieve chronic or painful muscle contractions like cervical dystonia.

When injected into overly tense muscles in controlled doses, Botox partially inhibits the muscle fibres’ ability to contract. This not only releases the tension in these muscles, but it also weakens them to reduce the intensity and frequency of future spasms. In this way, Botox provides both immediate relief, as well as prevention of future cervical dystonia episodes.

Treatment procedure

During treatment, our doctors will first assess your neck muscles to determine which are muscle groups in spasm and causing the pain. Once the muscles are identified, Botox units are carefully injected into specific, well-spaced points on the affected neck muscles, and possibly the trapezius. The injections partially paralyse and reduce tension in the targeted muscles, alleviating the involuntary contractions. This straightens the neck and relieves pain.

This treatment only takes about 10 to 30 minutes and has no downtime. You can immediately resume daily activities after the treatment.


Is the treatment painful?

There will only be a slight pain during the injections. Numbing cream can be applied to reduce discomfort during the injections if desired.

Is there any downtime?

There is minimal to no downtime for all Botox treatments. You should be able to resume daily activities immediately after treatment.

The treatment area may experience mild redness and swelling for a few hours as with most other injections. You may also experience mild weakness and soreness in the treated muscle groups as the Botox takes effect.

When can I experience results?

Some patients can experience immediate relief after the first injection, with most cases experiencing milder symptoms within the first week. The symptoms will continue to improve for the next 3 to 4 weeks after the Botox achieves its full effects.

Are the effects permanent?

Botox treatments typically last between 6 to 12 months, depending on how quickly your body breaks down the drug. However, it is possible to permanently weaken the neck muscles with regular treatments. For more information, Please consult our doctors at The Clifford Clinic in Singapore to receive their professional advice.