Understanding Dystonia

Dystonia is a type of movement disorder that causes unusual, uncontrollable movements of the muscles in your body. As a skilled neurosurgeon, Christopher Duma, MD, FACS, understands how the symptoms of dystonia can interfere with your physical health, your mental health, and your quality of life.

Dr. Duma customizes a treatment plan to address your dystonia symptoms, and though there’s no cure for the condition, he continues to work closely with you to keep your symptoms well-controlled.

The underlying cause of dystonia

The root cause of dystonia isn’t well-understood, but it’s likely that the uncontrollable muscle movements occur because of communication dysfunction between your cells and your nerves in multiple regions of your brain.

You may also develop dystonia as a side effect of another underlying medical condition, such as:

If you’re deprived of oxygen for a certain amount of time or experience carbon monoxide poisoning, you may be more likely to develop dystonia.

Warning signs you may have dystonia

The abnormal movements common with dystonia affect people in different ways. Some people experience mild symptoms while others develop symptoms severe enough to impact their physical and mental health.

In general, dystonia’s unusual muscle contractions begin in a single area, such as in the muscles of your neck, arm, or leg. The muscle cramps and stiffness may occur with specific activities and become worse if you’re under excess stress or are tired or anxious.

Over time, your dystonia symptoms can become more noticeable and severe. You may experience:

Some people may experience changes in their voice if they have spasmodic dystonia, a condition that affects your vocal cords and voice box. In oromandibular dystonia, you may experience slurred speech or drooling if you have muscle contractions in your jaw or tongue.

You should schedule a diagnostic evaluation with Dr. Duma as soon as you notice symptoms that may relate to dystonia. He can evaluate your overall health and determine the best course of treatment to help you find relief of your symptoms.

Finding the right treatment for dystonia

Initial treatment for dystonia and other movement disorders typically involves medications. Although many people can successfully control their symptoms with medicine, there are those who need more advanced treatment to treat dystonia.

With his fellowship training and extensive experience in surgical treatments for movement disorders, Dr. Duma can customize a treatment plan that involves:


Ablation is a procedure that uses heat to destroy tissue in your brain. Using the Gamma Knife®, Dr. Duma treats tissue in the globus pallidus and the thalamus part of the brain to reduce muscle contractions.


Cryothalamotomy is a treatment that’s similar to ablation, except that it uses cold energy to destroy brain tissue. Applying the cold energy to certain areas of your brain freezes the tissue that contributes to muscle tremors.

Deep brain stimulator implantation

Deep brain stimulator implantation is a surgical procedure to implant a neurostimulator. This battery-operated device delivers low currents of electricity into your brain to disrupt the signals responsible for abnormal muscle movements.

To determine if these interventions are the best option for treating your dystonia, Dr. Duma spends time reviewing your medical history and the severity of your symptoms. He creates your treatment plan based on your needs to ensure your symptoms are well-controlled.

If you have signs of dystonia, schedule a diagnostic evaluation today by calling the office of Christopher Duma, MD, FACS or by requesting an appointment online now.

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