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Ask the Doctor: Focal Dystonia


Copyright 2024, Mark Alan Wade

Primary Author: Dawson, W.
Journal Title: The Double Reed
Date Published: 2003
Language: English
Category: Nervous Disorders
Key Words: medical instrumental focal dystonia double reed prevention
Full Citation: Dawson, William J. Ask the Doctor: Focal Dystonia. The Double Reed 26, no. 2 (2003): 85-86.
Full Abstract: Focal dystonia belongs to a larger family of conditions called occupational palsies, such as writer's cramp. Over-practicing has been implicated as a contributing factor. There is generally no family history of focal dystonia. Neurologists and neurophysiologists have not determined the exact disease process. Some scientists' research has shown that the brain perceives the shape and composition of the hand differently in patients with dystonia. Embouchure dystonia is more common in brass players than in double reed instrumentalists. Symptoms usually onset in the musician's thirties or forties, are more common in professional players than hobbyists, and affect more males than females. Treatment options are limited. Botox injections treat the symptoms by weakening the contracting muscle. A new treatment (for focal dystonia of the hand) involves immobilizing the affected areas with splints, known as constraint therapy. Cognitive and psychological techniques have also been attempted, though focal dystonia is rarely cured. Prevention through careful practice habits are the best advice in the absence of a cure.