UAB Medicine


Dystonia is a class of movement disorders in which muscle contractions cause twisting and abnormal postures. These movements are involuntary and can result in painful twisting of the body. Dystonia can occur in a single muscle, a group of muscles or on an entire side of the body.

Dystonia Symptoms
Symptoms of dystonia can start small such as difficulty writing or foot cramps. Symptoms usually start small and may only be noticeable after long periods of exercise, with stress or fatigue. Symptoms of dystonia can be genetic in origin, or may be caused by a birth injury, heavy metal or drug exposure and infections, but half of the cases of dystonia are idiopathic, which means there is no known cause.

Dystonia Treatment
There is no single treatment used in fighting dystonia. Some patients will have a good response to medications such as levodopa or trihexyphenidyl. For localized dystonia, injections of botulinum toxin may be used to weaken the muscles, improving both the abnormal movements and the pain which may be associated with the movement. In cases that do not respond to medications or botulinum toxin, a neurosurgical treatment, deep brain stimulation, may be used.