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UW Health's Movement Disorders Program, based at University Hospital, treats patients with dystonia.
What is dystonia?
Dystonia is abnormal movement characterized by involuntary, sustained, patterned and often repetitive muscle contractions of opposing muscles causing twisting movements or abnormal postures.

What causes dystonia?
Dystonia results from the abnormal signaling of information in the brain. Dystonia may accompany other symptoms in many neurologic diseases/syndromes (secondary dystonia) or may be a disease in and of itself (idiopathic primary dystonia).

  • Difficulty with stiffness and loss of control of a particular body part
  • Can affect any muscles in the body at rest or with activity
  • Usually worsens with stress, fatigue or anxiety
  • May have pain and aches during particular activities


  • Oral medications which affect the impact of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, which are involved with muscle movement
  • Sensory tricks to help reduce dystonic contractions
  • Use of Botulinum toxin (Botox®), which helps block the release of chemical messengers that trigger muscle contractions
  • Intrathecal baclofen pump
  • Deep brain stimulation, which uses electrodes to stimulate targeted deep regions of the brain to help reduce abnormal muscle contractions.

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