Reviewed by Physician Vong U Chan and Dr Eki Wari on February 21, 2023
Stiff Person Syndrome: Understanding Celine Dion’s Disease
Published | 6 min read
In 2022, Celine Dion announced her diagnosis of stiff person syndrome, which causes pain and board-like stiffness throughout the body. Read more about this mysterious disorder and how to treat it here.
At the end of 2022, singer Celine Dion announced she had been diagnosed with stiff person syndrome, prompting concern among her fans. The rare neurological disorder is incurable and causes muscles to spasm or become stiff as a board.
The spasms can occur if a person is surprised, moves suddenly, or is exposed to cold temperatures. In some cases, emotional stress, certain exercises, and even touch can provoke symptoms.
Luckily, treatment can help reduce the severity of symptoms and improve quality of life. Read on to learn more about stiff person syndrome and natural remedies that help.
What Is Stiff Person Syndrome?
Stiff person syndrome (SPS) is an autoimmune neurological disorder that causes muscle pain, stiffness, and spasms that come and go over time.
Symptoms typically depend on what type of SPS a person has. The main types are:
Classic: Most people with SPS have this kind. It causes spasms and stiffness in the legs more than arms, lower back, and sometimes the abdomen.
- Partial: People with this type of SPS have spasms and stiffness in one part of their body, such as in one leg.
- Plus: This is best described as a combination of classic SPS (muscle pain and stiffness) along with symptoms that suggest brainstem or cerebellar dysfunction.
SPS is most common in women and people aged 40 to 50. However, it can happen in older adults and children.
Stiff person syndrome spasms usually begin in the legs and back. They can also occur in the abdomen, and less commonly in the upper body, arms, face, and neck.
Muscles can appear stiff and board-like in areas where the spasms occur. These spasms can lead to:
- Difficulty walking, where the affected person might space their feet wider apart to balance themselves
- Stiff or rigid posture
- Shortness of breath if spasms are located in the chest
- Falling and unsteadiness due to stiffness in the legs
- Chronic pain
- A curve in the lower back due to muscle tightness, spine misalignments, and spinal cord compression
- Anxiety due to pain and falls caused by the spasms
Less common symptoms may include lack of coordination, double vision, eye movement problems, and speech issues.
Stiff person syndrome, according to TCM
“In TCM, cramps are a result of muscle and tendon problems caused by both external and internal origins. Our Liver stores blood and rules tendons, the Spleen dominates limbs and rules muscles, and our Kidney rules bones. When these three organs are weakened, muscles and tendons become malnourished and it leads to muscle spasms in the limbs.“
External pathogens such as
The syndromes most commonly associated with such chronic muscle cramps as observed in SPS are Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency and Liver Blood Deficiency.
Liver Yin Deficiency may trigger a tendency of Liver Yang ascending. This is called “Liver-Yang stirs up the Wind” or “Liver-Yang turns to Wind,” which can develop into Liver-Wind syndrome.
Similar to the symptoms of SPS, the symptoms of Liver-Wind are characterized by tremors or spasms of the limbs, severe dizziness, nausea, vomiting, tingling or numbness of the limbs, and loss of balance in standing or walking.
Can Stiff Person Syndrome Be Prevented?
“Get sufficient good quality rest, eat a balanced and nutritious diet, and exercise regularly to strengthen the muscles. Include stretches in your exercise and lifestyle routine, manage your stress levels, and avoid smoking, alcohol, spicy food, and rage, which can contribute to Liver-Yang rising. Reduce exposure to cold temperatures, especially cold water.”
It should be noted that these
Stiff Person Syndrome Treatment Options
No cure has been discovered yet for stiff person syndrome, but the symptoms can be managed.
“To subdue Liver-Yang and extinguish Liver-Wind, some common herbs are
It is also very important to nourish
- Si Wu Tang: Restores and nourishes
bloodand stimulates blood circulation
- Da Ding Feng Zhu: Nourishes yin, calms Internal Wind, and extinguishes Endogenous Wind
- Qi Ju Di Huang Wan: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin
- Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang: Soothes the sinews, nourishes yin and Blood, soothes the tendons, regulates the meridians, and eases pain
Acupressure and massage
Acupuncture and moxibustion can effectively suppress hyperactive muscles and treat muscle cramps. The common body acupoints used are:
- He Gu (LI4)
- San Yin Jiao (SP6)
- Tai Xi (KI3)
- Tai Chong (LR3)
Massaging stiff, painful muscles with an anti-inflammatory herbal massage oil can help stimulate blood flow to ease symptoms.
Seek Help If You Have Similar Symptoms
Do you experience pain and stiffness in your muscles? If so, talk to your doctor about stiff person syndrome. Use the tips in this guide to help manage the pain.
- John Hopkins Medicine. Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS).
- Clinical Gate. 2015. Herbs that subdue the Liver-Yang and extinguish Liver-Wind.
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