Clinical and Demographic Characteristics of Upper Limb Dystonia

Mov Disord. 2020 Nov;35(11):2086-2090. doi: 10.1002/mds.28223. Epub 2020 Aug 26.


Background: Knowledge of characteristics in upper limb dystonia remains limited, derived primarily from small, single-site studies.

Objective: The objective of this study was to characterize demographic and clinical characteristics of upper limb dystonia from the Dystonia Coalition data set, a large, international, multicenter resource.

Methods: We evaluated clinical and demographic characteristics of 367 participants with upper limb dystonia from onset, comparing across subcategories of focal (with and without dystonia spread) versus nonfocal onset.

Results: Focal onset occurred in 80%; 67% remained focal without spread. Task specificity was most frequent in this subgroup, most often writer's cramp and affecting the dominant limb (83%). Focal onset with spread was more frequent in young onset (<21 years). Focal onset occurred equally in women and men; nonfocal onset affected women disproportionately.

Conclusions: Upper limb dystonia distribution, focality, and task specificity relate to onset age and likelihood of regional spread. Observations may inform clinical counseling and design, execution, and interpretation of future studies. © 2020 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.

Keywords: alleviating maneuver; musician's cramp; sensory trick; task-specific; writer's cramp.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Demography
  • Dystonia* / epidemiology
  • Dystonic Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male