Dystonia is a movement disorder that causes muscles to spasm involuntarily due to a malfunction in the the neurological mechanism that relaxes muscles when they are not in use. The often repetitive and twisting movements can result in irregular and awkward posture and even pain, ranging from mild to severe, in a single area of the body or across multiple muscle groups. There are several different types of Dystonia and while there is no cure, there are many treatment options available. It is important to understand that while it is a chronic disorder, the vast majorities of Dystonia do not impact cognition, intelligence or lifespan. Dystonia is indiscriminate in the fact that it effects men, women and children of all ages and backgrounds and each patient’s experience is unique. According to the Dystonia Foundation, most cases of Dystonia will stabilize within five years, however, patients are finding measured relief much faster through treatments such as Chiropractic Neurology. The first part of this two-part post on Dystonia will aim to help you understand the forms and signs of Dystonia, while the second part will offer information on treatment options, with a focus on success through the Chiropractic Neurology approach to treatment.
Dystonia takes many forms but can be classified as either Focal or Generalized in nature. Focal dystonias affect a specific area of the body and typically adult, or late, onset, meaning the symptoms begin in adulthood, usually after the age of 30. Each of the following are forms of Focal Dystonia:
- Blepharospasm – Affects the eyes
- Cervical dystonia (spasmodic torticollis) – Affects neck and shoulders
- Oromandibular dystonia (cranial dystonia) – Affects face, mouth, and/or jaw
- Laryngeal dystonia (spasmodic dysphonia) – Affects the vocal cords
- Hand dystonia (writer’s cramp) – Affects the hands and forearm
Generalized Dystonia affects multiple muscle groups or most of the body. There is also a more rare form called Segmental Dystonia, which affects two adjacent areas of the body. In addition, Seconday Dystonia can result from outside factors such as trauma, toxins, certain medications and infections or stroke. In the most rare cases, Dystonia can be attributed to a completely subconscious process known as Psychogenic Dystonia. (For a complete list of the Forms of Dystonia, please click here to visit the Dystonia Foundation’s web page.)
So you may be wondering how to determine what form, if any, of Dystonia you or a loved one may have. While the disorder can be a bit confusing to understand at first, there are four questions that can help you make the correct determination.
- At what age did the symptoms start?
- How is the body affected? (For example: Does it affect only one part of the body, two or more connected parts of the body or multiple parts of the body at one time? Does it happen only when the person is performing a certain task? Or does it affect only one side of the body?)
- What, if anything is known about the cause? (While this can be difficult to determine, Dystonia can result from trauma, medications or even stroke)
- Does the Dystonia occur with symptoms of additional neurological disorders? (Dystonia can be associated with approximately 50 other conditions. For a complete list, click here.)
Getting the proper diagnosis for Dystonia sufferers rest solely in the hands of the treating physician as there is no single test to confirm the disorder. Some of the considerations that a Doctor might include in his diagnostic process include:
- Patient history
- Family history
- Laboratory studies such as blood and urine tests, and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid
- Electrical recording techniques, such as electromyography (EMG) or electroencephalography (EEG)
- Genetic testing for specific forms of dystonia
- Other tests and screenings intended to rule out other conditions or disorders
Dr. Marc Ellis and his team at the Georgia Chiropractic Neurology Center provide the most comprehensive exams to determine an accurate diagnosis and the patient’s best course of treatment and utilizes cutting edge science to rehabilitate the brain and naturally balance and restore the body, a tremendous relief for sufferers of all forms of Dystonia, all without drugs or surgeries. In Part Two of our Dystonia discussion, we will take a closer look at treatment options and why Chiropractic Neurology is a valuable option for many patients.