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 that may interfere with everyday functions like walking, sleeping, eating, and talking. Primarily a hereditary condition, dystonia is the third most common movement disorder, following essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease.1

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

Dystonia is further classified by the part of the body that is affected:

  • 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.


Although dystonia has no cure, there are a number of treatments available for finding relief. Deep brain stimulation therapy may be an option if the patient have chronic, intractable (drug refractory) primary dystonia. Talk to a doctor about which treatments may work best.