Dystonia is a movement disorder that causes the muscles to contract and spasm. The muscles cannot relax when they are not in use. Many muscles often contract at the same time as if they are 'competing' for control of a body part.

These involuntary muscle movements force the body into repetitive and often twisting movements as well as awkward, irregular postures.

There are 13 forms of dystonia. Dozens of diseases and conditions include dystonia as a major symptom. (www.dystonia-foundation.org)


There are many different types of dystonia. All are characterized by repetitive and twisting movements, and awkward irregular postures. These are the most commonly seen dystonias in pediatrics:

Secondary Dystonia is generally seen following trauma, medication exposures, and toxins.

Torsion Dystonia begins in childhood and becomes progressively worse.

Dopa-resistive Dystonia (Segawa’s dystonia) begins in childhood or adolescence with progressive difficulty with walking and sometimes spasticity. It can be successfully treated with medications.

Rehab evaluation

An evaluation with occupational or physical therapist would start with a review of your child’s medical history and current function and difficulties. The therapist will then evaluate your child. They may measure your child’s movements, rate movement on the dystonia scale, and on the Ashworth scale, assess your child for spasticity and muscle strength, and review your child’s ability to do and participate in daily activities.

Rehab treatment interventions

Although there is presently no cure for dystonia, multiple treatments are available. The purpose of treatment for dystonia is to help lessen the symptoms of muscle spasms, pain, and awkward postures. The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of your child’s life and help him/her function with the fewest side effects possible.

  • Non-drug Therapies
    • Physical therapy
    • Aquatic therapy
    • Occupational therapy
    • Speech and/or voice therapy
  • Oral Medications
  • Injected Medications
    • Botox
    • Phenol
  • Surgery
    • Deep Brain Stimulator
    • Baclofen Pump
  • Complimentary Therapies
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