Today we’ll be talking about something that many people haven’t heard of but is closer to home than you realise; dystonia. This is a condition where faulty signals from the brain trigger muscles to spasm and pull incorrectly. Unsurprisingly, this can be very tricky to live with. 
 
If you or someone you love is struggling with dystonia, the first question on the tip of your tongue is going to be “how can you manage symptoms?”. In this blog, we’ll be taking a close look at how massage can help you
 
Please remember that if you’re in pain or struggling with symptoms you should always talk to a healthcare professional and not just rely on information you find online. 

What is dystonia? 

Dystonia isn't exactly a household name, but it affects more people than you might realise. It’s a neurological movement disorder which basically means faulty signals from the brain cause muscles to spasm and pull on the body incorrectly. It can affect one muscle, a muscle group, or the entire body. 
 
The Dystonia Society estimate that the disorder affects at least 70,000 people in the UK, with women seemingly more likely to develop the condition than men. 

What are the causes of dystonia? 

Despite ongoing research, the precise origins of dystonia remain a bit of a mystery. The main theory suggests an imbalance in the brain's nerve cells responsible for muscle selection during movement. While genetics and pre-existing medical conditions play a role, the exact triggers are yet to be detected. 

What are the symptoms of dystonia? 

There many types of dystonia, and the condition affects people differently. Symptoms can range from the mild to severe. 
 
Dystonia can be intensified or exacerbated by physical activity or stress. It can affect your whole body or just one part, and symptoms can start at any age. The resulting spasms - or tremors - can be painful, exhausting and debilitating. 
 
Dystonia can also be a symptom or a sign of other conditions, including Parkinson’s disease. It’s always worth getting a doctor's diagnosis if you suspect you may be suffering with dystonia. 

What are the different types of dystonia? 

Dystonia manifests in several types, each with its distinct characteristics. Understanding what type of dystonia it is can help to manage it more effectively. 
 
Focal dystonia targets specific body parts like the neck, eyes, mouth, or hands, causing localised spasms. 
 
Multiple dystonia affects multiple areas simultaneously, making symptoms more complex. 
 
Acquired dystonia arises suddenly due to external factors such as trauma or medication. 
 
Functional dystonia mimics other forms but lacks underlying neurological abnormalities, creating diagnostic challenges. 

How can dystonia be treated? 

Sadly, there’s no magic cure for dystonia yet. Treatments are available such as drug prescriptions, botox injections, physiotherapy and massage to help manage the symptoms. 
 
Most people do manage to develop successful strategies for living with dystonia, combining treatment with pain control and sensory tricks - for example, touching the affected area or nearby body part may reduce the muscular contractions and people can control their own contractions. Remission from symptoms does sometimes occur but it is very rare. 

Our experience with helping manage symptoms of dystonia 

Focal dystonia’s, which are the types that we have seen recently, are limited to specific parts of the body. Symptoms generally appear between the ages of 30 and 50 (except eye dystonia where they usually start between ages 50 and 70) although sometimes symptoms can appear earlier or later. Generally, focal dystonia starting in adulthood will affect only one part of the body. 
 
The clients we have seen with dystonia have had what is known as a focal dystonia. This tends to be limited to a specific part of the body. The progress of focal dystonia can be unpredictable with symptoms varying from day to day. Typically, a focal dystonia will progress gradually over a five-year period and then progress no further. Common focal dystonia’s can include the neck, eye, mouth, tongue or jaw, voice, or hands. 
 
For our clients, we have used myofascial release and deep tissue therapy to work through the tight tissues and help relieve some of their pain and discomfort, and we’ve found this to be an effective method. 
 
Massage can also help our clients with their mental health. It can be incredibly stressful living with movement disorders. One-hour sessions allow enough time to allow the body to ‘relax and let go’. Regular monthly massages are a great way to help manage this condition, alongside any prescribed medications. 
 
If you have any questions or experience similar symptoms and would like to try massage please give us a call, email us or book in. 
Tagged as: healing, massage, Pain
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