Focal Dystonia: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Dystonia is a neurological disorder that causes muscles to contract involuntarily, causing twisting, repetitive body postures and spasms that are difficult to control and are sometimes painful.

Focal dystonia is a type of dystonia that affects a specific part of the body.

Focal Dystonia Symptoms

Focal dystonia affects everyone uniquely and in varying degrees.

Areas of the body that can be affected are:

  • hand showing symptoms of focal dystoniaeyelids
  • neck
  • jaw or tongue
  • hand
  • and vocal cords

Focal dystonia symptoms include parts of the body twisting into unusual positions, uncontrolled muscles spasms, tremors or uncontrolled blinking.

The early signs of focal dystonia are frequently quite slight and often related to a particular activity.

The symptoms may become more pronounced with stress, anxiety and fatigue and often become more pronounced over time.

Causes of Focal Dystonia

woman with dystoniaIt is unclear what causes focal dystonia.

Neurotransmitters, the messengers that send neurologic signals to cells, may malfunction or may be in short supply in the basal ganglia of patients suffering from focal dystonia.

There is also thought to be a connection to brain injury, stroke or other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s or Wilson’s disease.

Also, people who perform repetitive tasks such as musicians, athletes, hair stylists or people performing data input often develop the disorder.

Focal Dystonia Treatments

Although there is no known cure for focal dystonia, there are treatments that have been found to lessen symptoms.

For this reason it is often necessary to try several approaches for the treatment of focal dystonia, depending on the location of the problem and its severity, including:

Anticholinergics such as Artane have helped some people with some types of focal dystonia. The drugs block the release of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine has links to muscle spasms in some people with dystonia.

The surgical treatment for focal dystonia, deep brain stimulation (DBS), has proven beneficial for some patients. DBS interrupts the abnormal brain activity that is thought to cause focal dystonia and weakens the symptoms.

Neuroplasticity has also been explored in an attempt to retrain and rewire the brain in an effort to eliminate the movements associated with focal dystonia.

Often a combination of medication, deep brain surgery or complementary therapies are used to mitigate pain and improve the quality of life for sufferers.

Treatments for Focal Dystonia in Ottawa

Chiropractic neurologists at Broadview Spine & Health Centre in Ottawa have been treating patients with focal dystonia with promising results.

Coping with focal dystonia often involves helping patients develop strategies for living with the condition, both physically and mentally.

The symptoms of dystonia may cause anxiety, stress or depression and so any treatment needs to consider the whole person in the management of symptoms.

Despite the fact that there is no cure for focal dystonia, there is hope in symptom management and new research in the application of the science of brain retraining.

Contact us today to find out more and book your first appointment.


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