About Dystonia

Dystonia is the third most common movement disorder, after essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease. Primarily a hereditary condition, dystonia can cause severe involuntary muscle contractions that may interfere with your everyday life. Over 500,000 Europeans suffer from dystonia of which 80,000 have primary dystonia. A Medtronic therapy, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) may be able to help some patients.

Definition and Symptoms

Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder characterised by involuntary muscle contractions. These contractions force certain parts of the body into repetitive, twisting movements or painful postures. Dystonia is the third most common movement disorder after essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease.1

Approximately 500,000 adults and children in Europe suffer from the movement disorder known as dystonia.1 These individuals often suffer from abnormal involuntary muscle contractions that may interfere often with everyday functions like walking, sleeping, eating, work and education, and talking.

Types of Dystonia

There are two types of dystonia:

  • Primary dystonia – a condition in which dystonia is the only symptom (no other pathology)
  • Secondary dystonia – the result of another health condition such as stroke or infections. It may also result from an injury, such as trauma to the brain.

Additionally, there are various classifications of dystonia characterised by the affected part of the body:

  • Focal dystonia (including cervical) affects one area of the body
  • Segmental dystonia affects two or more nearby areas of the body
  • Generalised dystonia affects the entire body


Although the causes of dystonia are unclear, primary dystonia is mainly hereditary. Generalised dystonia is considered the most difficult form of dystonia to live with and to treat effectively.


  1. What is Dystonia? Available at: www.neurosurgerytoday.org. Accessed April 15, 2008.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 22 Sep 2010

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