Student Nurse Laura

Orem – "creative effort of one human being to help another human being."

Dystonia vs Dyskinesia

Posted by Laura on September 17, 2010

Our class in Psych requires you to know the difference between Dystonia and Dyskinesia. Sure – everyone studies transference vs countertransference, neurosis vs psychosis, empathy vs sympathy… but this one is hard.

click on image to go to Dystonia Association of Kentucky

Medline Plus says “Dystonia is a movement disorder which causes involuntary contractions of your muscles. These contractions result in twisting and repetitive movements. Sometimes they are painful.

Dystonia can affect just one muscle, a group of muscles or all of your muscles. Symptoms can include tremors, voice problems or a dragging foot. Symptoms often start in childhood. They can also start in the late teens or early adulthood. Some cases worsen over time. Others are mild.”

I liked this reference next at Medical News Today:


There are two major classifications of movement disorders, dystonias and dyskinesias. There are also two time frames used to classify the onset of symptoms. Dystonias are spasms of individual muscles or groups of muscles. They can be sustained or intermittent, sudden or slow, painful or painless. They can affect any of the body’s voluntary muscles including those of the vocal cords. The movements of dystonias can appear very bizarre and deliberate but are involuntary.

Dyskinesias are involuntary, often hyperkinetic movements of various types that have no purpose and are not fully controllable by the patient. Some are random, some rhythmic, most are very odd looking and socially stigmatizing.

They can affect the ability to initiate or stop a movement as in Parkinson’s. They can affect the smooth movement of a joint resulting in a jerky articulation. Abrupt and seemingly violent movements of a limb are common as are gyrations of any body part. Tics and involuntary vocalizations are related to dyskinesias.”

Tardive means “characterized by lateness,  esp. pert. to a disease in which the characteristic sign or symptoms appear late in the course of the disease” (Tabers).

So even though both processes includes the unusual movements, dytonia is often recognized as slow and is involuntary where there is no pt control. Dykinesia is a later process of dystonia(?? still not too certain here), but is a more often a  ‘rapid’ movement and is sometimes controllable by the patient, yet still involuntary. When you have Tardive before either process, it means it is the late onset of.


The word dyskinesia (dis-ki-ne´ze-a) is logically derived from two Greek roots: dys-, trouble + kinesis, movement = trouble moving.

dystonia is from dys- + -tonia from Greek tonos tension, from teinen to stretch = trouble tension/stretch

So do they both include the tongue? yes.

Here is a good site American Association of Neurological Surgeons

It shows dystonia, dykinesia, parkinsons, ataxia, myoclonus, tourette syndrome….. There are links also to many organizations for resource information.

Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation
Huntington’s Disease Society of America
International Rett Syndrome Foundation
Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
National Parkinson Foundation
Tardive Dyskinesia
Tourette Syndrome Association, Inc
Tourette Syndrome Online

3 Responses to “Dystonia vs Dyskinesia”

  1. Anonymous said

    My grandmother TD curred by taking milk thistle and probiotic called Sustenex.

  2. Laura said

    As you know from reading this, I’m a new nurse with no formal Medical training beyond nursing. Your doctors are the best ones to answer this type of question. I would highly suggest you keep looking till you find the doctor who answers your questions, and who you feel comfortable with. I would also suggest you see a Neurologist to better help you. Wish you the best.

  3. singer51781 said

    Do you know anything about Tardive Dyskinesia? My psychiatrists are saying I most likely have Temporal Lobe Epilepsy; however, these involuntary body movements started a few weeks after I stopped anti-psychotics for four years. (very high doses). I’m noticing when I get stressed out, especially after talking to doctors who just pass me off and don’t take me seriously, my body freaks out. Do you know anything about this? I’m trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

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