Diagnosis of primary task-specific lower extremity dystonia in a runner

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2012 Aug;42(8):688-97. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2012.3892. Epub 2012 Apr 20.


Study design: Resident's case problem.

Background: A 56-year-old man was referred to physical therapy for analysis of unusual gait, first noticed 3 years previously when running. Prior to this evaluation, the patient had seen multiple orthopaedic, sports medicine, and neurological specialists while undergoing repeated and extensive testing. Ten months of testing and treatment, including conservative and surgical management, did not provide an explanation for the gait abnormality or result in improvement of the patient's condition.

Diagnosis: The patient's physical examination was relatively unremarkable, considering the severity of the gait abnormality. Distinct abnormalities were apparent with computerized gait analysis and dynamic electromyography, and, when combined with the physical examination findings, led to a suspicion of the task-specific disorder of runner's dystonia. The patient was referred to a neurologist specializing in movement-related disorders, with a final confirmed diagnosis of primary task-specific dystonia with first onset during running (ie, runner's dystonia).

Discussion: Idiopathic, task-specific dystonia of the lower extremity is documented as a very rare occurrence, yet increasing trends in running participation may result in a higher incidence of this condition. Improved awareness of runner's dystonia in the present case might have enhanced the clinical decision-making process and resulted in more timely and effective treatment solutions. Clinical examination findings, including computerized gait analysis and electromyography, in conjunction with imaging, blood, and genetic testing, can aid in the diagnosis of runner's dystonia.

Level of evidence: Differential diagnosis, level 4.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential*
  • Dystonic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Electromyography
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Running / physiology*