“I’ve definitely come a long way since my first day here. I came in with a neck brace on…and on my 5th day of treatment I’m walking around with my head up again.”

“I didn’t go to a regular neurologist because I knew my options there were very limited to medication, botox injections (which I did NOT want), and so I decided to come here. It was a wonderful decision!”

What Causes Dystonia?

Most cases of dystonia do not have a specific cause, but the origin of the disease seems to be related to the way the nerve cells communicate with each other in the basal ganglia, the area of the brain that is responsible for initiating muscle contraction. Acquired dystonia is caused by damage to the basal ganglia that may be the result of:

  • brain trauma
  • stroke
  • tumor
  • oxygen deprivation
  • infection
  • drug reactions
  • poisoning caused by lead or carbon monoxide

Different Types of Dystonia

The type of dystonia you have is classified by the part of the body it affects.

Generalized dystonia: affects most or all of the body.

Focal dystonia: affects more than one unrelated body part.

Segmental dystonia: involves adjacent body parts

Hemidystonia: affects the arm and leg of the same side of the body.

Based on its patterns, dystonias can also be classified as one of the following syndromes:

Cervical dystonia or torticollis

is the most common type of dystonia-related syndrome and occurs mostly in middle-aged individuals. It affects the neck muscles, causing the head to twist and turn or be pulled backward or forward.

Torsion dystonia

is a rare form of dystonia that disables the entire body. Symptoms generally appear in childhood and get worse over time.

Tardive dystonia

is caused by an adverse reaction to a drug. Symptoms are typically only temporary and are treatable with medication.

Writer’s cramp

is a type of dystonia that only occurs while writing and affects the hand and/or forearm muscles.

Oromandibular dystonia

causes spasms of the jaw, lips and tongue muscles and creates problems with the patient’s speech and swallowing.


affects the eyes and usually begins with blinking. Both eyes will eventually become affected as spasms can cause the eyelids to involuntarily close and oftentimes, stay closed. The person affected may have normal vision, but dystonia creates a closing of the eyelids, making the person functionally blind.

Cranial dystonia

affects the head, face and neck muscles.

Spasmodic dystonia

affects the throat muscles that are responsible for speech.

Paroxysmal dystonia

is also episodic and produces symptoms only when the person is experiencing an attack.

Symptoms of Dystonia

Symptoms of dystonia are different depending on what part of the body is affected and what form of dystonia is present. Early symptoms may begin with foot cramping or difficulty getting the leg to turn in the proper direction. Handwriting may worsen with the task or when a person is stressed, they may experience the neck pulling involuntarily. Both eyes may blink rapidly and uncontrollably or spasms may cause the eyes to close. Tremors or difficulties speaking are also common with dystonia. 

One specific action can be affected, such as a hair stylist having difficulties with her hands while trying to use scissors, but not when trying to type. Initially, symptoms may be mild but may become more noticeable after prolonged stress or fatigue. Over time, symptoms may become more evident and begin to cover a wider area. Impact on daily functioning depends on what part of the body is affected and the severity of the muscle contractions.

Here are some areas of the body that are commonly affected by dystonia:


Rapid blinking or involuntary spasms.


Contractions that cause the head to twist to one side or pull forward or backward.

Face, head and neck

Contractions in one of these areas, slurred speech or difficulty swallowing.

Vocal cords

Muscles controlling vocal cords can be affected causing a tight or whispering voice.

Hand and forearm

Some types of dystonia bring symptoms during repetitive, specific activities only.

People affected by dystonia often complain of pain and exhaustion because of the constant muscle contractions. When symptoms begin in childhood, they generally appear in the hand or foot and progress to the rest of the body. After adolescence, though, the progression rate slows. When dystonia surfaces in early adulthood, it typically begins in the upper body and symptoms progress slowly, remaining focal or centralized to a specific area.

How Cerebrum Health Centers Can Help

Dystonia can present in a variety of ways, but all impact core motor function. One of the more common forms of Dystonia is Cervical Dystonia which causes the head and neck to constrict into a seemingly unnatural position. You feel as if a part of your body is not yours anymore. You may feel “deformed” or “disfigured” whenever symptoms present. Levels of pain range from mild to severe. Many patients come to us after losing hope along their medical journey. They have seen dozens of medical professionals, only to be told they have to live with their condition or take medications with side effects to manage it.

At Cerebrum Health Centers, we see things in a different light because we understand the inherent ability for the brain and nervous system to heal. Our doctors and staff understand how to assess patients’ brain function using a complex neurological physical exam, a VNG exam, a Computerized Dynamic Posturography, Gait Analysis, and for some patients even functional medical labs. Our team takes time to listen, to build a case history, to analyze your prior records, to build a custom treatment plan, to reassess, retest, and adapt therapies throughout the duration of your stay. It’s a very dynamic process in a very relaxed and family friendly environment. Our patients tell us over and over how we give them renewed hope. Don’t give up hope. Give us a call. We can help.

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