The natural history of embouchure dystonia

Mov Disord. 2001 Sep;16(5):899-906. doi: 10.1002/mds.1167.


Focal task-specific dystonias are unusual disorders of motor control, often affecting individuals who perform complex repetitive movements. Musicians are especially prone to develop these disorders because of their training regimens and intense practice schedules. Task-specific dystonia occurring in keyboard or string instrumentalists usually affects the hand. In contrast, there have been few descriptions of musicians with task-specific dystonia affecting the muscles of the face and jaw. We report detailed clinical observations of 26 professional brass and woodwind players afflicted with focal task-specific dystonia of the embouchure (the pattern of lip, jaw, and tongue muscles used to control the flow of air into a mouthpiece). This is the largest and most comprehensively studied series of such patients. Patients developed embouchure dystonia in the fourth decade, and initial symptoms were usually limited to one range of notes or style of playing. Once present, dystonia progressed without remission and responded poorly to oral medications and botulinum toxin injection. Patients with embouchure dystonia could be separated by the pattern of their abnormal movements into several groups, including embouchure tremor, involuntary lip movements, and jaw closure. Dystonia not infrequently spread to other oral tasks, often producing significant disability. Effective treatments are needed for this challenging and unusual disorder.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Disease Progression
  • Dystonic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Dystonic Disorders / etiology*
  • Dystonic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Facial Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meige Syndrome / etiology
  • Meige Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Music*
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Videotape Recording