Five Things to Know About Stiff Person Syndrome

Stiff Person Syndrome is a rare neurological disorder.

As many of you may know, Celine Dion was recently diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome. I’m a huge Celine fan, so I was immediately curious about what this disorder entails. In medical school we learn about a lot of diseases, and but rare syndromes like this aren’t always covered. 

Stiff Person Syndrome, also called SPS, or ​​Moersch-Woltman syndrome may have a strange name, but it’s a rare and progressive neurological disorder that causes the muscles to stiffen and contract excessively. The spasms can be so powerful they are capable of causing fractures in the bone. 

SPS has affected Celine Dion so severely that it has created problems with her vocal cords and caused her to cancel or reschedule her 2023 shows. Of the disorder, Dion said: “These spasms affect every aspect of my daily life, sometimes causing difficulties when I walk and not allowing me to use my vocal cords to sing the way I’m used to.” 

READ MORE: Could You Have a Sleeping Disorder?

This diagnosis is heartbreaking for her, but it has shed some light on SPS, which is a small silver lining. 

Here are five things to know about SPS.

SPS is incredibly rare. The disorder affects less than 5,000 people in the US, with symptoms appearing in adulthood.

SPS affects more women than men. Women are twice as likely to develop SPS than their male counterparts.

Symptoms of SPS include anxiety, hyperhidrosis, difficulty walking, rigid muscles, spasms and contractions, and hypothyroidism.

SPS typically affects the lower back muscles and legs, although it can affect other muscle groups.

SPS is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or fibromyalgia. It is hard to diagnose, but is treatable with various muscle relaxing drugs and antibody treatments for the immune system.

Since SPS is a rare disorder it is unlikely that it will affect you. Regardless though, it’s good to know that word is getting out about this syndrome, especially if you are a woman in adulthood, or a Celine Dion fan.

Published by karenmsutton

HSS Orthopaedic surgeon in sports medicine | Mother of 4 amazing children | Team physician for USA Women's Lacrosse | ACL injury expert

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