What is Dystonia

Dystonia affects close to 1% of the world’s population, and women are more prone than men. Dystonia is a movement disorder which an individual’s muscles contract uncontrollably and results in the body twisting awkwardly, repetitive movements and abnormal postures. The disorder can affect one muscle, a couple of muscles or the entire body. This article will shed more light on the symptoms, causes, and treatment of Dystonia.


Early stages of Dystonia may be confused with weak bones. Dystonia ranges from mild to severe and affects different muscles of the body. Though the disorder progresses through stages, one can observe early symptoms such as:

  • a dragging leg
  • speech difficulties
  • stamping of the foot
  • uncontrollable blinking
  • involuntary movement of the neck

Stress and fatigue may trigger the symptoms and even make the case worse. People with Dystonia often complain of exhaustion all the time and pain because of the multiple muscle contractions. When the disorder affects a child, it usually starts with the foot or hands and progresses to the rest of the body. The progression rate deteriorates after puberty, and the muscles relax a bit.

When Dystonia affect a grown up, it begins in the upper body.An individual will experience few symptoms as the disorder goes deeper into the body.In early adulthood, Dystonia affects one or more parts of the body which are adjacent to each other.

Causes of Dystonia

The primary cause of dystonia cannot be defined, but it seems to be related to the dysfunction of basal ganglia. Basal ganglia is the part of the brain that is responsible for muscle contractions. The key problem involves miscommunication between the nerves. Acquired dystonia is caused by malfunction of the basal ganglia. The malfunction may be as a result of:

  • stroke
  • Brain trauma
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain
  • tumor
  • brain infection
  • drug abuse and reactions
  • Poisoning caused by lead or carbon monoxide

What most people do not know is that dystonia can be inherited. Some carriers may not get affected, but their descendants may suffer from dystonia. The symptoms of different family members may vary from one person to another.

Different types of Dystonia

Dystonia is classified according to the body parts they affect:

1. Generalized dystonia-affects the muscles of the entire body.
2. Focal dystonia-affects one part of the body
3. Multifocal dystonia-affects two or more independent body parts.
4. Segmental dystonia-affects muscles of body parts that are adjacent.
5. Hemidystonia Dystonia-affects arm and leg of the same side of the body.

Other diseases that are movement disorder type diseases or conditions include the following:


Before settling for any treatment, the doctor will determine the cause, type and how severe the disorder is in the patient. Doctors have introduced a new treatment that takes less time and has practical results called Botox or Xeomin. The toxin is injected directly into the affected muscles where it blocks acetylcholine chemical that triggers muscle contractions. The injections are repeated every three months for full effectiveness.
In extreme cases of dystonia, a patient may be disabled. In such situations, brain stimulation is the best option for treatment. An electrode is implanted in the affected part of the brain and connected to a stimulator powered in the chest. The electrodes will then transmit electrical pulses from the chest to the brain area to lower muscle contractions. The intensity of the electrical pulses and the frequency are regulated by the doctor depending on the muscle contractions.

The sensory trick is another treatment option of dystonia. The sensory trick stimulates controlled muscular contractions on the affected and near body parts. The patient is able to monitor their body movements.
Speech therapy, physical therapy, and stress management are also methods used to aid in dystonia symptoms treatment.

After the above treatment sessions, patients are put on medications that help reduce excessive muscle contraction in dystonia. Drugs that doctors recommend for dystonia treatment are:

  • Clonazepam
  • Baclofen
  • Levodopa
  • Procyclidine hydrochloride
  • Lorazepam
  • Diazepam

If dystonia patients are not monitored carefully or have a supportive and caring society, they may get into depression which may worsen their condition. The best way to deal with dystonia is by joining organizations that support dystonia patients and help them to recover fully. Though medication helps in treatment; mental support is also necessary as one recovers gradually. Children may need more moral support and guidance in understanding their condition and also avoid bullying by being able to stand the ground for themselves.