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Chiropractic Blog

Chiropractic Care for Dystonia 

Published Date: 
July 3, 2023
A young woman stretches and rubs her neck while sitting at her desk.

Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder that triggers the body’s muscles to contract involuntarily. People with dystonia experience repetitive or twisting motions they can’t control. The condition can be painful and interferes with a person’s daily quality of life.

Medical experts are not sure of the exact cause of dystonia. They’ve linked it to medications, heredity, and trauma. It might also occur because of abnormalities or damage in the neurological system.

There's no cure for dystonia. Most people undergo various treatments, many of which do not offer permanent or long-term solutions. Chiropractic care brings the body into balance and provides a solution for dealing with the discomfort, pain, and movements of dystonia. 

Dystonia Causes & Symptoms

There is no known cause of dystonia. But it might involve changes in communication between nerve cells in several brain regions. Some forms are genetic in nature.

Dystonia can also be a symptom of another condition, including:

  • Diseases including Parkinson's, Huntington’s, and Wilson’s
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Birth injury
  • Stroke
  • Brain tumors
  • Disorders that develop in some people with cancer (paraneoplastic syndromes)
  • Oxygen deprivation 
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Tuberculosis 
  • Encephalitis
  • Reactions to certain medications 
  • Heavy metal poisoning

Dystonia affects people in different ways. Muscle spasms might:

  • Begin in a single area
  • Occur during a specific action, such as writing by hand
  • Worsen with stress, anxiety, or fatigue 
  • Increase over time to the point that other people notice the movement

Types of Dystonia

Dystonia might affect one part of your body (focal dystonia), two or more parts (segmental dystonia), or all body parts (general dystonia). Spasms can range from mild to severe.

Different types of dystonia affect different parts of the body, including:

  • Neck (cervical dystonia)
  • Eyelids (blepharospasm)
  • Jaw or tongue (oromandibular dystonia)
  • Voice box and vocal cords (laryngeal dystonia)
  • Hand and forearm


There are several options for treating dystonia. For example:


Botulinum toxin injections, including Botox, can reduce or stop your muscle spasms. Injections are not permanent. You’ll likely need a shot every few months to keep symptoms at bay.

Side effects of injections for treating dystonia include:

  • Weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Voice changes

Other medications target your brain’s neurotransmitters. These medications include:

  • Carbidopa-levodopa (Duopa, Rytary, others)
  • Tetrabenazine (Xenazine) and deutetrabenazine (Austedo)
  • Trihexyphenidyl and benztropine
  • Diazepam (Valium, Diastat, others), clonazepam (Klonopin) and baclofen (Lioresal, Gablofen, others)


Non-drug interventions for treating dystonia include:

  • Physical therapy 
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy 
  • Stretching or massage 
  • Chiropractic care


In some cases, but only when symptoms are severe, surgery might help. Surgical treatments for dystonia include:

  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Selective denervation surgery

Effects of Dystonia on Posture

Depending on the part of the body affected by dystonia, it can negatively impact posture. This is especially true for cervical (neck) dystonia. In general, it’s difficult for people dealing with the discomfort of dystonia and muscle spasms to practice good posture.

A chiropractor adjusts young woman's hip and spine.

Often, bad posture results from someone trying to avoid the dystonia triggers. What they’re doing can control spasms but cause stress to the spine. 

For example, people with dystonia have poor posture to avoid standing or sitting in a position that triggers spasms. This can also lead to spinal subluxations and pinched nerves.

How Chiropractic Care Can Help

Chiropractic care is one of the most effective tools for treating dystonia.

The condition affects the spine. Chiropractic care includes many different tools and exercises for treating dystonia and, overall, restoring spinal health using: 

  • Adjustments
  • Stretching
  • Strengthening
  • Soft tissue therapy (massage)
  • Cranial realignment
  • Thermal ultrasound

Patients experience relief in as little as three sessions with a chiropractor. For many people, the benefits are long-lasting. Chiropractic care might also prevent cervical dystonia. Chiropractic care is safe for treating people of all ages experiencing dystonia.

Chiropractor performs palm massage on a patient.

Case Studies

According to one study:

“… Advanced Biostructural Therapy and Atlas Coccygeal chiropractic techniques for management of cervical dystonia (resulted in) … Substantial reduction in the cervical dystonia rating scale.”

In this case, other “standard” medical interventions had failed.

In another study, a 14-year-old girl suffering from head tilt to the right accompanied by neck pain underwent chiropractic treatment following botulinum injections and other medical treatments. Her initial week of treatment resulted in significant relief of her pain. Further treatment resulted in the following: 

  • Significant reduction of pain
  • Elimination of spasms in her neck muscles
  • Improvement in the position of her head

Benefits of Utilizing Chiropractic Care to Help Manage Dystonia

Chiropractic care is all-natural and safe. It provides an alternative to invasive treatments such as injections or surgery often recommended for treating dystonia. It’s also an option for those who have tried other medical treatments and failed. 

For example, using botulinum toxin injections, dystonia that affects the hands can be challenging to treat. In these cases, chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation and adjustments to hand muscles and ligaments may help to address hand dystonia.

Dystonia causes spastic, sometimes drastic movements. It can include twisting motions that affect posture and cause pain. For some people, the condition is debilitating. Dystonia can affect anyone of any age or gender. 

Although some people live with the effects of dystonia, others must seek medical treatment because their condition is chronic and painful. Chiropractic care can be used alone or in conjunction with other therapies for treating dystonia.

Dr. Darren Faherty D.C.

In 2004, Dr. Darren Faherty graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology from UWEC - University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Dr. Darren continued education at the highly esteemed University of Western States (formerly Western States Chiropractic College) where he obtained his chiropractic degree in 2007. He has been helping people recover from injuries and return to their normal lifestyles ever since.

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