Pain in spasmodic torticollis

Pain. 1997 Feb;69(3):279-286. doi: 10.1016/S0304-3959(96)03296-4.


Spasmodic torticollis (cervical dystonia) is frequently a painful condition but little is known of the characteristics of the pain. We assessed 39 patients with spasmodic torticollis for the presence or absence, location, and quality of pain, as well as its correlation to postural abnormality. Muscle tenderness was evaluated by manual palpation and pressure algometry. Measurements were made on muscles either actively maintaining or opposing abnormal head posture, as well as on muscles not contributing to it. Control measurements were made in 18 healthy subjects. Two-thirds of patients reported continuous or intermittent recurrent pain. Pain was reported widespread and diffuse over the neck and shoulders, with some radiation, predominantly on the side toward which the head was twisted. There were no differences between study groups when compared for pressure algometry and only moderate differences when compared for manual palpation. No correlation was found between the severity of motor signs and pain. Degenerative changes seen on X-rays were similar in painful and pain-free patients. These findings suggest that pain associated with spasmodic torticollis does not arise in muscles alone, and we hypothesise that central mechanisms are also involved.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Spasticity / complications*
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Torticollis / complications*