The NHS define Dystonia as ‘the name for uncontrolled and sometimes painful muscle movements (spasms)’ its usually a lifelong problem but treatment, including physiotherapy can help to relieve the symptoms. It can be a really challenging condition to live with and finding the correct treatment can be difficult.
Cervical dystonia (uncontrolled movements in the muscles around the neck) is the most common focal dystonia (a dystonia present in one part of the body), it often occurs in middle age and builds up slowly to reach a plateau over several months or a year.
Task specific dystonia’s are focal dystonia’s that occur when trying to perform a specific activity an example of this is Writer’s cramp – a dystonia that affects muscles in the hand, and sometimes forearm, only when someone tries to write; or Musicians dystonia – which affects someone only when they try to play their musical instrument.
Dystonic movements are thought to originate from the part of the brain called the Basal Ganglia, although the cause of most dystonia’s is often unknown. The Basal Ganglia is a part of the brain, which helps to regulate and control movement. Researchers think there could be abnormalities in the brains ability to process a group of chemicals called neurotransmitters; these are chemicals, which help different areas of the brain to communicate with each other.
The most common treatment for focal dystonia’s is Botulinum Toxin injections, which are carried out by a specialist neurologist. Small amounts of this chemical are injected into the affected muscles to limit how well they contract, leading to a temporary improvement in the dystonic movements, the injections are often done a few times a year to help in the management of the dystonia.
Alongside the use of Botulinum Toxin physiotherapy can be beneficial in helping you manage your dystonic movements. A physiotherapist will analyse how you move and look at how you can strengthen weaker muscles improving your posture, which can help in dystonia management. They may also suggest lifestyle changes, which can help you manage your symptoms.
Here’s some tips for you to try out at home:
Writer’s cramp: Try using a bigger diameter pen and writing on a sloped board
Cervical Dystonia: Try gently touching your head or chin, usually on the side of the dystonia, this can help settle it, sometimes resting your head back on a supportive surface can settle the dystonic movements
In general, most dystonia’s will be exacerbated by stress so look at ways of managing stress such as relaxation techniques – mindfulness, gentle exercise such as walks, can help. When you are in a position that triggers your dystonia try to minimise the time in that position.
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If you think a specialist physiotherapist assessment would be beneficial in helping you manage your dystonia, then call us on 01306 888171 or email email@example.com