Dystonia is a common movement disorder that causes uncontrolled muscle movements, such as twisting or twitching. Dystonia symptoms often mirror several other medical conditions, which can make diagnosis difficult.

At Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Neuroscience Institute, our movement disorder specialists have years of experience caring for people with dystonia. We use the latest tests and treatments to diagnose and manage this condition. We can provide the answers you need while providing therapies that are most likely to improve your symptoms.

What is dystonia?

Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder that causes a range of uncontrolled movements. Researchers believe that the symptoms stem from problems in how the nervous system communicates with the muscles needed for movement.

At AHN, we’ll discuss the condition with you in detail and support you in every way. Learn more about our approach to movement disorders care.

Dystonia symptoms

People may experience dystonia symptoms differently. Depending on the type of dystonia, symptoms may affect one or multiple parts of the body, such as the face (eyes or jaw), arms, or legs.

The movements caused by dystonia are involuntary, which means that someone with the condition cannot predict when they will happen. They also cannot stop these movements from happening on their own.

People with dystonia may experience movements that:

  • Exaggerate a normal movement
  • Slow down a movement
  • Involve twisting or jerking

Get precise dystonia diagnosis at AHN

Dystonia is sometimes misdiagnosed as a psychiatric illness. AHN’s movement disorder specialists have a thorough understanding of dystonia symptoms and use a range of diagnostic tests to evaluate your symptoms and offer a precise diagnosis.

No single test can diagnose a movement disorder. After evaluating your symptoms, your doctor may recommend:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or other imaging tests, which can help physicians rule out conditions, such as a tumor, that might explain your symptoms
  • Blood or urine tests, which can tell us if there are unusual levels of blood cells, hormones or other substances that may be causing your symptoms
  • Neurological tests, which measure your muscle strength and reflexes

Get expert dystonia treatment at AHN

Our team of movement disorder specialists has extensive training in diagnosing and treating dystonia and other movement disorders. We can help you find the answers you need.

Once we confirm a diagnosis, our care team provides a treatment plan that meets your needs. Many people with dystonia find that a combination of therapies helps ease their symptoms. We may meet with you regularly to address any symptoms that worsen or change over time.

We provide the most effective dystonia treatments available today:

  • Medication: Your physician helps determine which medications would most benefit you, based on your symptoms and specific challenges. We work with you to find a medication (and dosage) that addresses your symptoms while managing any potential side effects.
  • Physical therapy: Certain exercises or activities may improve dystonia symptoms. Regular activity can also benefit your health in many ways. Our knowledgeable, caring physical therapists work with you on a customized physical therapy plan.
  • Speech or occupational therapy: Our specially trained speech and occupational therapists can help you relearn how to complete daily activities that have become difficult due to symptoms.
  • Surgery: Certain patients experience significant symptom relief from neurosurgical procedures, such as deep brain stimulation. Our specialists have performed hundreds of these innovative procedures, which involve surgically implanting electrodes into the brain to regulate impulses.

Contact us

To schedule an appointment or learn more about AHN neuroscience services, call (412) 359-8850.

If you're an existing patient, you can also call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 in Pittsburgh or request an appointment with AHN neuroscience services.