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The Facts about Dystonia

Dystonia is the name for uncontrolled and sometimes painful muscle movements (spasms), a neurological movement disorder. Thought to affect around 100,000 people in the UK alone, dystonia is the third most common movement disorder after essential tremor and Parkinson's disease.

Though the cause of dystonia is not completely understood, it appears in some people to be related to a chemical imbalance in the basal ganglia, a part of the brain which regulates coordination of the body's movement. If the basal ganglia are damaged in some way, it can cause incorrect brain signals and the wrong muscles to contract when the person tries to move. It can also cause muscles to contract involuntarily when the individual is at rest. These muscled movements called spasms can look like twitching and tremors and are referred to as 'dystonic movements'.

Though dystonia can be inherited from genetic mutation, many cases are idiopathic, which means that there is no known or clear cause. Acquired or secondary dystonia appears to have a specific cause, which can be anything from a brain injury, stroke, Parkinson's Disease, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis or infection to drug reactions and lead or carbon monoxide poisoning.

The symptoms of dystonia can range from mild to severe and can affect any part of the body, from 1 part of the body to the whole body. Muscle contractions cause the affected body part or parts to involuntarily twist, resulting in abnormal postures and repetitive movements, such as the individual's beck being twisted to the side of their feet turning inwards. It can affect people of any age and gender though women are more prone to the condition than men. Symptoms can be continuous or come and go. Stress and fatigue can cause the symptoms to worsen: ironically, the contractions themselves can cause stress and fatigue, resulting in a vicious circle. Unfortunately, Dystonia is usually a lifelong condition, however, in most cases it is not life limiting. There are several treatments available to help relieve the symptoms of dystonia, including:

  • Botulinum Toxin. Commonly known as 'Botox', this toxin is injected directly into the muscles affected by dystonia. The toxin works by blocking the effect of acetylcholine, a chemical responsible for producing muscular contractions. 
  • Deep Brain Stimulation. Used in severe cases, deep brain stimulation involves the implantation of an electrode in the brain; this electrode is connected to a battery-powered stimulator which is implanted into the chest. At a regulated intensity and frequency, the stimulator creates electrical impulses which are transmitted to the brain through the electrode, helping to reduce contractions of the muscles. 
  • A number of different medications can help to reduce messages from the brain that cause excessive muscular contractions. 
  • The wearing of custom-made dynamic compression garments has been shown to help reduce the symptoms of dystonia. Jobskin® is a specialist supplier of such garments, Sensory Dynamic Orthosis (SDO®), and the complete collection can be found on our website. (Including assessment garments and made-to-measure options) https://­www.­jobskin.­co.­uk/­dynamic-compression 
  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational therapy

For more information about how our dynamic compression garments can help ease the symptoms of dystonia, please get in touch with a member of our dedicated customer service team. You can also get support and information from Dystonia UK, the UK's only dystonia charity by visiting their website at https://­www.­dystonia.­org.­uk/

Information in this article taken from https://­www.­webmd.­com/­brain/­dystonia-causes-types-symptoms-and-treatments