Dystonia causes involuntary repetitive twisting and sustained muscle contractions. These result in abnormal movements and postures. The symptoms usually begin in one body region, such as the neck, face, vocal cords, an arm or a leg, and then may spread to other parts of the body. When dystonia affects children, it often starts in a leg before spreading to other limbs and trunk. In adults, dystonia tends to remain localized to a body region and frequently affects first the upper body.
Dystonia usually occurs or worsens during voluntary movement. It may also happen with movement of other unaffected body regions or when the affected body part is at rest. Dystonia may lead to sustained fixed postures potentially causing permanent contractures. The symptoms of dystonia typically increase during stress, emotional upset or fatigue, and decrease during rest and sleep. Many people living with dystonia can temporarily suppress their symptoms by using “sensory tricks”. These are a unique feature of dystonia, consistent of touching the affected or an adjacent body part to decrease the pulling or posturing.
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