Focal hand dystonia in musicians: phenomenology, etiology, and psychological trigger factors

J Hand Ther. 2009 Apr-Jun;22(2):144-54; quiz 155. doi: 10.1016/j.jht.2008.11.007. Epub 2009 Mar 10.


NARRATIVE REVIEW: Musician's dystonia is a task-specific movement disorder, which manifests itself as a loss of voluntary motor control in extensively trained movements. In many cases, the disorder terminates the careers of affected musicians. Approximately 1% of all professional musicians are affected. In the past, focal dystonia (FD) was classified as a psychological disorder. Over time, the problem was classified as a neurological problem. Although the specific pathophysiology of the disorder is still unclear, it appears the etiology is multifactorial. While there may be a family history, neurophysiological, physical, and environmental factors, trauma and stress contribute to the phenotypic development of FD. This manuscript analyzes the evidence supporting the potential contribution of the emotional brain systems in the etiology of focal hand dystonia in musicians. In addition, the psychological findings from a large descriptive study comparing healthy musicians, musicians with dystonia, and musicians with chronic pain. Information about psychogenic characteristics might be used to modify intervention strategies and music instruction to reduce the incidence of musician's dystonia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dystonic Disorders / etiology*
  • Dystonic Disorders / physiopathology
  • Dystonic Disorders / psychology*
  • Hand*
  • Humans
  • Music*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology*
  • Personality
  • Risk Factors