How does dystonia affect my nervous system?

Dystonia disrupts the nervous system's ability to allow the brain and the muscles to communicate. The body's ability to control muscle movements is very complicated and involves many areas in the brain. The area of the brain that is believed to be most affected by dystonia is called the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia are a deep region of the brain that monitors the speed of movement and controls unwanted movements. The basal ganglia are responsible for sending signals to the muscles instructing them when to move and when to stop moving. For reasons we don't yet understand, the basal ganglia's instructions to the muscles become irregular and chaotic, resulting in the unwanted muscle movements and contractions.

Not only does the brain send irregular messages to the muscles but the affected muscles send chaotic messages back to the brain. The nervous system is overtaken by a self-perpetuating cycle of abnormal communication. This suggests that the brain and muscles could be retrained to communicate through physical therapy. Rehabilitation is an active area of research that is likely to continue to provide direction for new therapies.

Continue Learning about Dystonia


When your muscles contract involuntarily, the condition is called dystonia. Dystonia causes a twisting or clenching of whatever body part is affected. For example, when you have a stroke, the affected arm and hand may be clenched ...

and held in a strange position. Dystonia can be very mild or very severe. It can make your life very difficult and this can lead to frustration, depression or anxiety. See your doctor to treat your symptoms and talk over your frustrations.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.