Pediatric Dystonia

Pediatric Dystonia



Pediatric dystonia causes continual, painful muscle contractions that move opposite of each other.

Expanded overview

Dystonia is part of the larger movement disorder class called dyskinesia. But unlike the other movement disorders, dystonia causes ongoing and twisting movements. This is due to an abnormal brain signal that triggers a push-and-pull motion that causes that muscles to twist painfully in opposition of each other.

Dystonia causes the body to awkwardly contort in response to walking, resting, writing or talking. Movements can start in one area of the body, like the hand, and spread down to the foot. Dystonia can be diagnosed at any age, beginning at 12 months and older.


Dystonia can occur due to several possible triggers, including:

  • Brain tumor
  • Chemical or drug poisoning (carbon monoxide and lead)
  • Damage to the basal ganglia of the brain (includes the cerebral cortex, thalamus and brainstem)
  • Head trauma
  • Hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain)
  • Reaction to drugs
  • Stroke


There are two main categories of dystonia:

  • Primary dystonia – is a genetic (inherited) disorder that spreads and increasingly becomes worse during the first five years after diagnosis (it will then stabilize)
  • Secondary dystonia – is the most common form in children and is a result of a brain injury

Location-specific dystonia

Whether primary or secondary, dystonia impacts a number of bodily functions and locations, as described below:

  • Blepharospasm – eyes
  • Cervical – neck
  • Cranial – head and neck
  • Focal – one specific location
  • Generalized – most or all of the body
  • Hemidystonia – arm and leg on the same side
  • Multifocal – multiple locations
  • Oromandibular – jaw, lips, and tongue (speech and swallowing)
  • Paroxysmal – locations vary; symptoms only occur during attacks and are very rare
  • Segmental – adjacent locations
  • Spasmodic – throat muscles (speech)
  • Tardive – face, neck, torso, and limbs (result of a drug reaction)
  • Torsion – entire body
  • Writer’s cramp – hand and forearm


Symptoms of dystonia include push-and-pull muscle contractions. Other symptoms can include:

  • Foot cramps
  • Neck spasms
  • Problems walking
  • Speech issues
  • Uncontrollable blinking

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