Dystonia: How Can Physical Therapy Help?

June 21, 2017

Article Written by Ryan Torgrude, DPT, OCS, MTC, CSCS

Dystonia is an involuntary muscle contraction pulling the body in awkward and often repetitive postures.  It can feel like a never-ending “Charlie Horse” or pulling/twisting in different directions.  Dystonia’s pathophysiology and cause is uncertain.  It is classified as a neurologic muscle disorder with the traits of deficient inhibitory signaling, abnormal sensorimotor processing, and excessive plasticity that is maladaptive.

Often, people with dystonia seek physical therapy treatment and find it to be ineffective.  At PTOSI, we have greater success in helping people with dystonia to better manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Our approach is to look at each patient with dystonia holistically and help them on an individual basis to manage their specific symptoms within their daily activities and circumstances.  We complete a comprehensive biomechanical evaluation to determine joint dysfunctions, muscle imbalances, nerve mobility, and postural dysfunction.  We also look at how their personal life factors may influence their dystonia.  We work to develop a comprehensive plan to address each problem area.  This can include manual therapy to address joint dysfunction, soft tissue mobilization and myofascial release, instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, dry needling, stretching for the dysfunctional tight muscles, strengthening for the weak antagonist muscles, and motor control.  We work with the patient to determine if they have a “sensory trick” to help them better manage their symptoms. We also focus on comprehensive therapeutic neuropain science education to better understand how to self-manage chronic pain symptoms and instructing patients in a graded return to activity.

Through this holistic approach of helping each patient address his/her specific biomechanical and neural dysfunction, we believe we can have an extremely positive impact on the lives of people with dystonia.

Please call PTOSI Physical Therapy today to make your appointment with one of our highly trained physical therapists! 612-812-2700.