Free Tips

Spasmodic Torticollis Recovery Clinic

STRC TIPS: There is more information in these tips than I had when I recovered.

ST’rs have complex physical problems with varying degrees of involvement, so we custom the program to each individual person, according to their own situation and the way their ST manifests. For example, some clients can do almost all the exercises, some only a few; some can do the standing ones standing, while others have to do those lying down to have the exercise be helpful and not be counterproductive. Re. the exercises, almost always the side to which your head turns, leans or pulls is the “short side” (your muscles are more contracted on that side which pulls the head over and usually pulls that shoulder up.) You are actually short all the way down on that side – back and even into the hip. You need to exercise to stretch both sides of the back (as ST almost always manifests also in the back) and neck with more emphasis to elongate your short side. If you lean one direction and turn the other, you probably have a bilateral shortness and need to work both sides evenly. One of the keys is trying to stand erect, back of the neck flat, chin slightly down, and your head and neck stacked on top of the trunk of your body, (i.e. a “military brace” position) not with the head jutting out in front, which is so typical with ST’rs or rolled back. You can see how this feels if you will lie down on the floor on your back, knees up. Now try to touch the floor with the back of your neck. You won’t be able to, but try. You’ll see that will force your chin way down and you should feel a stretch in the neck and skull. Now try to imitate that position standing up or sitting – that’s the Military Brace position, and most exercises are done in that position. The chin should never be up with the head reared back. So if you are lifting a weight over your head, you can stand very straight in a military brace position (back of neck flat and chin down), knees slightly bent and raise the weight over your head and down several times, maintaining the military brace. Think the exercise into the back of your head and neck – i.e. try to feel it there. You can begin with a 3 or 5 lb. bell or whatever is challenging for you. If you cannot yet keep your head fairly centered while doing this, you are not yet ready for this exercise. Try it lying down. Then apply the same principal to other stretching exercises. You won’t feel much if you are on Botox, but the exercises are still being effective. The trick is to daily stretch those muscles and get them flexible and of equal length. Work in slow motion and hold the extension, breathing into it. Try not to do anything that rolls the head back, or juts the head forward like painting a ceiling or riding a bike!

Then you should be getting some daily massage – maybe from a family member.  Don’t massage the SCM muscle in the front of the neck! We offer a free massage demo here:

You need massage on the upper back, shoulders and neck, into the base of the skull. Up the back with the heel of the hand (stay off the bone) and then use knuckles into the tops of the shoulders and up the neck into the base of the skull. Use any kind of oil like olive or coconut oil, etc. You can also try this move which all clients love: I call it the Skull Rock. The person doing the massage, puts the heel of his hands at the base of your skull, the rest of his hands resting on the back of your head. Then he gently moves your head slightly up to the right and then slightly up to the left in a sort of  rocking motion, to elongate where those tight muscles insert into the skull. All of this should not be painful but maybe a little breath-taking. You may lie down for the massage or sit sideways in a chair, back exposed. Lean forward a bit and relax, head down,  forearms propped on your knees. sells portable folding massage chairs.

As you begin the exercises, it’s almost a given that things will get worse for awhile  – more spasms and more discomfort – as your body fights back – unfortunately that’s predictable – just hang in there, but baby step your way into any exercise program! Be conservative, so that your body can get used to the changes gradually. You eventually adjust. It’s a process and takes time – sometimes months for the body to adapt and begin to straighten out. You have to begin very gently. Don’t shock your body. What you are doing over time in this recovery program at S.T.R.C. is creating a new reality for your body – new muscle memory, new neuro  brain pathways, restructuring musculature and postural realignment, so that, eventually, that new reality, or new you, will begin to dominate, forcing the symptoms of S.T. into dormancy, and you can come into what we call a state of ongoing recovery. I personally have not seen a medical professional regarding my S.T. since 1984, take no meds for S.T. and walk in daily recovery via this program.

Don’t sleep on a contour pillow!!! That will make the ST immediately worse because it rolls the head back. Personally, I love the premium My Pillow  (medium or color code white is best for most people)  Sleeping on your back is best with your head slightly elevated, chin tucked a bit and thus you’re getting a nice passive stretch of the neck and back of head all night. DON’T sleep on your short side!!! It will make your ST worse. Heat on the back is fine and recommended. Cold packs are best for the neck – not heat!). The Sleep Number or Select Comfort bed is a very good choice since you can regulate the softness/hardness at the touch of a button. This is the bed I use and mine is on an  adjustable frame. I actually recovered using a waterbed.  I have also discovered that if you are chilly at night, you tend to curl up while sleeping, so you might want to consider a heating blanket or heated mattress pad, so that you will more easily be able to sleep on your back.

It’s not advisable to use a cervical collar (unless you are using it as a holder for a cold gel pack or temporarily to be comfortable while driving, eating out, etc.), as collars will eventually weaken the neck and make you worse. You can buy gel collars that you can use either hot or cold. The cold packs will actually do more to relieve the pain and calm down the spasms, and I recommend keeping the sore areas cold for long periods of time. The best cold pack I’ve found is the Elasto-Gel Cervical Neck Wrap. It’s a flexible cold pack that covers the neck, top of shoulders and dips down the back. Put it in the freezer for 2 hours and then enjoy relief from both spasms and pain.  Here is a simple self-help tool I call the ST Head Brace that you cn mke for pennies at home. It may or may not help, but worth a try. Here is a 10 minute video demo:

I also love the Teeter Hang-Ups Inversion (gravity) Table – the basic model. I think both  and  offer the Teeeter Inversion table with flex interest-free payments. This table is safe and easily allows you to hang upside down for a full body traction. Do not leave children unattended near the table! Use a bike lock on it if there are any kids in the house, even teens. You should not use this table if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, are pregnant, or are on Artane. Other gravity tables are available for less at some sports stores, but try before you buy and have someone in the house with you when using it. You don’t have to have one of these to recover.

I also recommend long hot baths – it’s important to let your body rest and relax. You should avoid like the plague doing anything that causes your head to jut forward or to have your chin up and head rolled back. You can order a high-back Obusforme (by Homedics) on Amazon. They are wonderful portable chair backs (get the high back one..) that you can put anywhere. VERY helpful in keeping you erect. For rest breaks, much better to be on the floor on your back with your head on a pillow, chin down, and be sure to program many short rest breaks into each day. That is also a good position for reading. (If you wear bifocals, put them on upside down!) Ditto for watching TV – lie on the floor, so you are not tempted to slouch or twist. Try not to cross your legs or twist your body when you sit. You can’t possibly do everything right overnight since you have ST – but this is the idea, and you can begin to work toward this. Take it one baby step at a time. We like Shaklee Vitalizer vitamins because they are food based, not chemically based and perfectly balanced. You can find them in your area or through the Clinic.

We have found over the years working with clients that acupuncture does not help and chiropractic work tends to make ST symptoms worse.

We recommend the Shaklee Vitalizer, a complete vitamin/mineral formula. Shaklee is by far the best product out there in my opinion. A low one-time membership fee gives you a 15% discount on all their products. You may call them at 1-800-742-5533 to enroll and order. Use my info for enrollment,  #CL50241 as Abigail Collins (my legal name) Also, it’s very important to avoid too much sugar, too much alcohol (especially red wine, as it tends to be a muscle inflammatory), too much caffeine and too many white flour products, junk food and preservatives, and NO sugar substitutes!!! I use granulated Xylitol available at health food stores in bulk, and that is safe for an ST’r. It comes from the bark of trees and vegetable fiber; it looks and tastes just like sugar, though is a bit milder. Use it as you would sugar, including for baking. Xylitol is actually good for you, Search online for all it’s benefits and the best price. This product is generally safe for diabetics. Honey is also okay and coconut sugar is okay. Splenda contains bleach and has potential harmful side effects. Don’t use aspartame (it’s a neurological toxin!) Try to keep your diet as healthy as you can with plenty of raw fruits and veggies and lots of water. As a chiropractic neurologist once noted, if you smoke you cannot recover – period.

Regarding the exercise, about all I could do when I began my own program was to hold a 5 lb. dumb bell and reach over as if to touch my toes and just hang with the head loose and released. And then slowly stand into an erect position, chin tucked, and hang again. I’d do that for awhile and then lie down. It was over a year before I could stand up straight, as my body was so spastic. Avoid doing exercises that really increases the pull WHILE you are doing the exercise. Getting into recovery  mode takes time, commitment and dedication as you are totally reprogramming the body. The daily massage work is essential, and be positive.

It’s also important to avoid toxins of all kinds. Stay positive! If you are saying things like “Oh, I know I’ll never improve” – that easily can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Then pray! I hope these tips will help. Let me know how you’re getting along. We now offer our Long-Distance course. Call or email us for further information, and let us help you into recovery. (575)737-1144  Email:     [email protected]  God bless you, Abbie Brown, Director S.T.R.C.