7 Symptoms of Dystonia

Successfully moving each part of the body requires a lot of coordination between the brain, nerves and muscles. If something goes wrong with all of this coordination, a person may develop dystonia. This condition is characterized as a type of movement disorder where muscles contract involuntarily. There are three main types of dystonia. A patient can have focal dystonia, which only affects one part of the body, segmental dystonia, where a few parts of the body located next to each other have dystonia, or general dystonia where all areas of the body are affected.

The precise causes of this condition are not understood, but it seems to be linked to issues with nerve cell communication. In some cases, it is caused by other disorders like Parkinson’s disease, brain injury, strokes, medication side effects, brain tumors, or infections. Even if it is not linked to any other severe disorders, it can be painful and distracting enough to impair quality of life and cause difficulty with daily activities.

1. Cramping

One of the first signs of dystonia during its early onset is muscle cramps. A warning sign of the condition is often just frequent cramping in a few specific areas of the body. These symptoms normally start out as a mild issue that occurs every now and then, but it gradually starts to happen more and more often. Occasionally, the cramping will turn into what is called a dystonic storm.

This is an intense episode where a lot of cramping and other dystonic symptoms happen all at once. It can be quite unpleasant, but the symptoms will eventually subside. The muscles cramps associated with dystonia may be mildly uncomfortable, or they may be quite painful. If a person is holding an item, muscle cramps in the hands can cause them to drop the item. They happen because the muscles in the body are tightening excessively. Dystonia related cramps can be triggered by certain activities, but sometimes they just happen even when a person is resting. Hands are the most common area to experience cramps, and people often refer to this as “writer’s cramp.” However, cramping can actually happen anywhere in the body, including the limbs, torso, feet, shoulders, or neck.