Dystonia is a chronic movement disorder that causes muscles to contract involuntarily. Dystonia often becomes worse with time.
These contractions cause you to twist repeatedly into abnormal positions that can be painful.
Typically, dystonia is not life threatening, but it can be disabling. The involuntary movements can cause your tendons to shorten and lead to permanent physical deformities.
Types of Dystonia
Dystonia can affect only a specific group of muscles or many groups. Dystonia is classified by the group of muscles it affects and includes the following types:
- Cervical dystonia (twisting the neck)
- Blepharospasm (closing your eyes)
- Writer's cramp or hand dystonia (hand cramping during writing)
- Limb dystonia (twisting an arm or leg)
- Generalized dystonia (involuntary movements throughout the body)
- Tardive dyskinesia (twitching or writhing often in the face, mouth and tongue)
Early signs of dystonia can be subtle and include the following:
- Trembling of limbs, hands and face (tremor)
- Voice problems
- Rapid blinking or involuntary eye closing
- Foot turning when walking
- Twisting of a specific group of muscles
Dystonia Treatment at Rush
The goal of movement disorder providers at Rush is to help you get relief from your symptoms and lead an active, full life.
Dystonia affects each person differently. Rush movement disorder experts will tailor your treatment plan to your needs.
Your customized plan may include one or more of the following:
Botulinum Toxin Injections
- Botulinum toxin injections (commonly known as Botox) are injected directly into your affected muscles to control involuntary movements.
- This treatment weakens the injected muscles, which can decrease your contractions and pain for several months.
- Specific types of dystonia respond well to these injections:
- Dystonia of the face or eyes
- Cervical dystonia, affecting the neck
- Limb dystonia, affecting the arms or legs
- Truncal dystonia, affecting the abdomen, back or chest
- Medications can influence certain brain chemicals that affect movement. Our goal with medications is to help you get the most symptom relief with the fewest side effects.
- Your movement disorder provider will talk to you about side effects you are experiencing to help tailor your medication dose and manage use.
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)
- Your provider may recommend deep brain stimulation when medication cannot control your dystonia symptoms.
- In DBS, a neurosurgeon implants a neurostimulator that delivers tiny electrical signals to your brain to give you more consistent movement control.
Rush Excellence in Dystonia Care
- Movement disorders expertise: Movement disorder specialists at Rush see a high volume of patients with dystonia and related conditions. They use this expertise to determine which treatment approach is right for each patient.
- Experience with botulinum toxin injections: Neurologists at Rush were the first in Chicago to offer botulinum toxin injections to patients as a treatment for neurological disorders, including dystonia. They have a deep understanding of how — and when — to use it most effectively.
- Neurological care across the system: For your convenience, Rush movement disorder neurologists are available in Chicago, Oak Park, Oak Brook and Aurora/Fox Valley.
- Deep brain stimulation options: Rush neurosurgeons perform multiple types of deep brain stimulation, including asleep DBS and responsive DBS, that are not widely available.
- Ongoing dystonia research and expertise: The Dystonia Study Group, a national group of dystonia experts, is led by movement disorder specialists at Rush University Medical Center. This group also collaborates closely with the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation. Their goal is to further dystonia research to ultimately better treat patients.
- Nationally ranked expertise: Neurology and neurosurgery at Rush University Medical Center is consistently ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.