What Is Dystonia?

Dystonia is a movement disorder that causes involuntary muscle contractions and spasms. Opposing muscles often contract at once, forcing the affected body part into repetitive and even violently twisting movements or awkward, irregular postures that may be uncomfortable and painful.

Dystonia is classified by the type of muscles that are affected such as:

  • Spasmodic torticollis (neck)
  • Blepharospasm (eyelids)
  • Spasmodic dysphonia (voice)
  • Meige syndrome (jaw)
  • Generalized dystonia—usually hereditary

Dystonia may also be classified by the part of the body affected:

  • Generalized: Entire body involved
  • Segmental: Contiguous body regions involved
  • Multifocal: Non-contiguous body regions involved
  • Focal: One body part involved

A body part affected by dystonia is commonly also affected by tremor. This is called dystonic tremor.

Some patients with dystonia use a sensory trick to overcome or break dystonic movements. This is referred to as Geste antagonists, and it involves the patient touching the body part that is affected by the dystonia. For example, a patient with torticollis may temporarily break the neck spasm by placing his hand on his cheek.

Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center 
Lavin Family Pavilion 
259 East Erie Street, Floor 19 
Chicago, Illinois 60611 
Main Number: 312.695.7950
Fax: 312.695.5747

Making an appointment
To make an appointment, or if you have any questions about our clinic, please contact our nurse coordinator at 312.695.7950.

Functional Neurosurgery Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital

The Functional Neurosurgery Program specialists at Northwestern Memorial Hospital work in integrated teams to provide patients with a multidisciplinary approach to their care, including:

  • Assessment by a fellowship-trained neurologist in movement disorders and epilepsy
  • Comprehensive pharmacological therapy
  • Neurosurgical evaluations for deep brain stimulation (DBS), epilepsy surgery, pain surgery, intrathecal medication infusion and other therapeutic procedures
  • The opportunity to participate in clinical research trials
  • Physical, occupational and speech therapy through Northwestern Memorial Hospital in conjunction with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
  • Social work services: consultation, counseling, support groups and access to community services and resources
  • Educational programs
  • Learning materials: books, videos, audiotapes and internet resources
  • Neuropsychology services

The board-certified neurologists at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles. They diagnose and treat patients with a full range of neurological disorders, including dystonia.

Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital Movement Disorders and Neurodegenerative Diseases Center

Your movement matters—at home, at work, even while doing the common tasks that everyone can take for granted. If you have a movement disorder, you deserve a level of care that can get you back to doing the things you love, with confidence and peace of mind.

The Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital Movement Disorders and Neurodegenerative Diseases Center uses an interdisciplinary team approach to provide individualized care that optimizes your treatment, outcomes and experience. Your care is provided by a focused and experienced team that includes specially trained neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, nurses, counselors and rehabilitative specialists who offer advanced treatment options and access to support and resources.

For more information or to make an appointment, please contact us at 630.933.4056.

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