The exact cause as to why people develop Dystonia is currently unknown for the majority of people. For a small group of people it occurs due to a gene mutation, brain injury, infection, secondary disorder, or as a result of medication. Pinning down the root of the condition is something that research is currently focusing on.
So far we know that for some unidentified reason there is an issue with a section of the brain called the Basal Ganglia. It is known that this region of the brain enhances activity in the motor cortex which controls the agonist and antagonist muscles. In a healthy person when they make a movement the way the muscles contract and relax is coordinated and harmonious. However with Dystonia there is a deficient inhibition in the antagonist muscles which can result in both sets of muscles contracting simultaneously. It’s not clear why this happens.
The Dystonia Society UK have a fantastic wealth of information on the ins and outs of Dystonia, which I would really recommend reading to find out more information on the condition. For now it seems unlikely that any one particular theory will be proven right in the immediate future, so I shall continue to personify my Dystonia into a cheeky little alien, it’s a far more entertaining cause.
It’s currently the 2017 Dystonia Awareness Week in the United Kingdom. Usually I would have kicked off awareness week on time (yesterday) with a blog post, and as has become tradition, would have been sporting some lovely green streaks in my hair. Instead I’m currently in the hospital due to a flare up of my Dystonia; at least the timing is appropriate and they’ve given me some sexy green slipper socks (so I’m squeezing the go green awareness campaign in).
Currently The Dystonia Society UK estimates that around 70,000 people are affected by the condition, making it the third most common movement disorder in the UK, however it’s thought that the affected number of people affected may be far higher due to a lack of knowledge within the profession affecting levels of correct diagnosis. Dystonia presents in a vast amount of varying ways across all age groups which adds to the complications when it comes to diagnosing patients.
Only a few decades ago it was thought that Dystonia was caused by psychogenic roots, thankfully through giant leaps forwards in research we now know that this isn’t the case; many people will never know what triggered their condition, whilst others now know that their Dystonia is caused by either a genetic mutation or brain trauma. Sadly despite the leaps in understanding of the condition many medical professionals still mistake this as psychogenic condition and therefore do not treat the patient appropriately.
This is one of the reasons that awareness week is so vital, without awareness and fund rasing events research into causes and treatment options comes to a halt. At this moment in time there is no known cure for Dystonia, but treatment can have a significant impact in a sufferers quality of life.
Though out awareness week I’m aiming to blog daily, however this may alter depending on how well I am.
When I was diagnosed with Dystonia in 2012 it took a few days for reality to really sink in. But after allowing myself to accept the diagnosis I launched myself into researching the condition. Something I’m sure many of you sufferers do. The problem with the internet is that you can find just about anything you want to find on it. Researching useful information can be problematic.
I was lucky and stumbled across The Dystonia Society’s Webpage quiet quickly (http://www.dystonia.org.uk/). Their website is packed full of easy to understand information and resources. It helped me come to terms with my condition and understand fully the condition I was dealing with. Previously I had not understood that it was my brain sending incorrect signals to my muscles causing them to go into painful spasms. I had simply thought they were just spasming.
The Dystonia Society over the last couple of years have been a wealth of knowledge and their helpline has been of great comfort. Another fantastic site is The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (https://www.dystonia-foundation.org/). This is the American equivalent of the The Dystonia Society and is another resourceful website, providing fantastic information on the condition and advice. Websites such as these two are a great resource for suffers to use as a tool to educate Doctors, health professionals and family members who don’t understand the condition. They even have a have section for schools. I find myself checking these sites constantly for new material I can use to help advise others and am never let down.
Today I had my first one to one session with a local Yoga teacher. I had been inspired to give this a go after hearing a number of other Dystonia sufferers saying they managed to do it and enjoyed it. The teacher was lovely, she believed in completely looking at my body as a whole and worked out what I could do, not what I couldn’t! This to me was important as it took away the feeling of being disabled. For me interestingly enough I found that my hypermobility was my main issue more than my Dystonia during the session, as I had to work on controlling my flexibility so that I did not over flex the pose.
Research has shown that the benefits of yoga for movement disorders include improved strength, flexibility, balance etc. This is something that I am working towards (minus the flexibility) as due to my muscle spasms I am aware that the strength in places like my legs will not be as good as they were before I was ill. I never had a sense of balance, so if I can gain that then I’m not going to complain!
I found the whole experience to be actually quite relaxing. The fact that my Dystonia only played up a handful of times meant that I could really enjoy the session and appreciate what I was doing. My teacher was surprised at how much she could get me to do, this pleased me as I felt like I was achieving something. She explained as we went along what each pose would help with and what muscle it would stretch. By the end of the session we had a whole routine put together that I will do for half an hour every morning. I am hoping that by doing regular Yoga my muscles will get used to being stretched often, that way when it next does one of its extremes spasms – like the one that damaged my knee ligament – I won’t do as much damage to my body and I won’t be in as much pain. As much as I hope I never have to deal with that sort of extreme spasm again I know there is a good chance I will have to. I am extremely interested to see if this will help.
Todays blog i am going to keep short and sweet…you can all breathe a sigh of relief ;-p. I want to start by saying thank-you to all of you who have nominated me or endorsed me for a WEGO Health award, it is extremely touching! Below are some links that I think are really worth checking out! Happy reading.
I was doing my usual surfing of The Dystonia Society’s website and came across the link to The Global Dystonia Registry. This is a huge international database of Dystonia sufferers that scientists and researchers are using to understand Dystonia better. The more sufferers that register themselves on the database the more research can be done, and that can only lead to a more optimistic outcome for us all! For anyone who wants to know more here is the link to The Dystonia Society’s page which explains a bit more http://www.dystonia.org.uk/index.php/about-dystonia/global-dystonia-registry .
This year is full of exciting things, one of those is the London Marathon which my cousin David and his friend Sam are running in, to raise money for the Dystonia Society. I admire them for doing this, despite the weather we have been having, they have both continued training out along muddy canal paths and fields. They log their progress on Facebook and twitter so please follow them as they train to raise money for such a fantastic cause!
This week has been rather busy, which has left me feeling tired but extremely happy. On Monday I visited my GP to seek some advice. To be honest he was not really able to give me any, however I expected this. I explained to him the disastrous trip to A&E the other weekend and asked if he could give us any advice for if this happened again. Whilst he was shocked by the treatment we had received, he was unable to offer any advice about what we should do the next time this happens. On the bright side he has said that we can continue to use the muscle relaxant that we were given on the Friday in emergency situations as a last resort. We are still waiting to hear back from my neurological consultant in regards to advice/explanation on why the sudden change in presentation etc.
On Wednesday I had a couple of friends round, and I had a really good laugh with them. It felt so good to feel ‘normal’. I spent the day laughing and watching Star Wars with them, which was pretty much perfect!
Yesterday I was well enough to go back to riding after having to have a week away from it. I was completely ecstatic! The lesson went extremely well, and I managed to do more rising trot than I have managed to do before which was incredible! The horse I ride, Connie, is extremely patient, which gives me so much confidence, as I feel that my spasming limbs will not cause to much of an issue. I came home from riding covered in so much of Connie’s hair that I was beginning to look a bit like a horse myself.
Last night I attended the penultimate pain support/management/research group. As usual it was fantastic and I had a good laugh with everyone and left it feeling very relaxed. I have suggested to the group that once it finishes we arrange to meet once a month for a coffee, so that we can all continue to support each other. It is something that they all liked the sound of as we have get on so well together.
Today I am exhausted, however I am glad of this. I am not used to lots of stimulation so after having a busy few days, I am going to relax and take it easy. I also have a busy weekend planned with friends visiting me on Saturday and Sunday. This week has been perfect and I have felt so ‘normal’ through-out it. I am an extremely happy girl.
The following quote/image, is one that I say over and over to myself every time I feel like I am being defeated or that things are hopeless. Just because I have not managed to cope today does not mean that tomorrow will be the same. Tomorrow I could think of something else to try/do. I just need to keep on smiling. As long as there’s a smile on my face then I know I am winning.
Since my last post my ability to move around has deteriorated rapidly! The shake/tremor in leg has become extremely violent and my leg feels like its made of jelly. The force of the tremor physically shakes the upper parts of my body as I try to hobble about. I have never had a sense of balance, so you can imagine how hard I am finding it to stay upright, when my leg is shaking me to the point that I would fall if I was not being held up. This tremor has made my knee extremely painful, the other night the pain was so excruciating that I ended up having a Non Epileptic Seizure.
I am trying to work out whether this tremor is a new development to my leg or if it is a development of a Dystonic movement that was already happening. You see, often when my leg goes into spasm, as the spasm is about to go, my right leg would shake like mad. The way I always thought of it was that my leg was shaking away the spasm, this sounds silly but it was a comforting thought, these tremors would last from to seconds to a good couple of minutes. I think it is likely that this new issue is simply a development of the previous tremor, as Dystonic movements do develop (get worse).
However this creates a whole new ball game. I know that with Dystonia, you cannot really forward think, as you never know what will happen from one day to the next. Nevertheless I find myself having to think forward, as I like to have some sort of plan in place. After speaking to someone with similar leg problems to myself and hearing what they do to manage their symptoms, I have had an idea which I would like to discuss with my doctor. I want to put across to him the idea of getting a knee or leg brace. I have previously used a splint for my hand spasms and I found this very helpful in containing the spasms and most of the time it prevented the spasms from getting too extreme. As this worked well for my hand, I think it would make perfect sense to try out on my leg.
I shall of course listen and take on board anything my doctor suggests, I presume he shall offer me some sort of muscle relaxant to help, and I shall happily do/try whatever he wants me to. However I think I shall really press this idea. After looking into it more, I have read about a number of people who have tried knee or leg braces and found that they had good experiences with them. I plan on waiting a few more days before I go to my doctor. I had originally planned on waiting two weeks before I went but I don’t think I can deal with the pain the tremor is causing for that long. The reason for waiting is so that I can go and say, this has been happening, I believe it is a development of a previous movement, its been having for X many days and this is what I want to suggest. For me, I think this is the right approach to take with my doctor.
Who knows what will happen, I can only hope that he decides to give my idea a go! Until then I am going to avoid moving around as much as possible, so that I do not cause myself any more pain!
This evening I went to a group that my GP signed me up for. It is designed for people with chronic pain symptoms, to help give them coping mechanisms that they can learn to use in daily life. The group is also for research so we were asked to answer questions, and give them our life and medical history, so that they can compare the results the group gets at the end of the 12 sessions to the answers provided at the beginning.
At the start, I must admit I was a bit dubious about the group, the leader seemed a bit mad, and everyone there was a fair bit older than me. I was also concerned with how much I would be able to take part in, as I am in wheelchair. However by the end of tonight’s session my concerns were long gone. I had managed to take part in everything, when they did walking activities, I copied their upper body movements, and swayed about in the chair. The other people their were lovely and I have a good giggle with them all. We also focused on our posture and did breathing exercises which I found to be very relaxing. The two hours flew by, and I cannot wait for the next session!
Today has been a rather positive day. After six hours of calling, I finally managed to get hold of my Consultants Secretary, who has promised to chase him, and have him contact me ASAP, I am hopeful that he will, but I shall just have to wait and see. I have had no Non Epileptic Seizures at all today which is fantastic and my head and body are feeling much better.
My local Riding for the Disabled stable phoned me today, and as long as my Non Epileptic Seizures stay calm, then I shall hopefully have my first RDA lesson next week! I am rather excited!