What is Stiff-Person Syndrome?
Stiff-person syndrome is a rare progressive neurological disorder characterized by
constant painful contractions and spasms of voluntary muscles, particularly the muscles of
the back and upper legs. Symptoms may occur gradually, spreading from the back and legs to
involve the arms and neck. Symptoms may worsen when the affected individual is anxious or
exposed to sudden motion or noise. Affected muscles may become twisted and contracted,
resulting in bone fractures in the most severe cases. Individuals with stiff-person
syndrome may have difficulty making sudden movements and may have a stiff-legged, unsteady
gait. Sleep usually suppresses frequency of contractions. Stiffness may increase and
patients may develop a hunched posture (kyphosis) or a swayback (lordosis). Researchers
theorize that stiff-person syndrome may be an autoimmune disorder. Other autoimmune
disorders such as diabetes, pernicious anemia (a chronic, progressive blood disorder), and
thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland) may occur more frequently in patients with
Is there any treatment for Stiff-Person
The drug diazepam, which relaxes the muscles, provides improvement in most cases.
Baclofen, phenytoin, clonidine, or tizanidine may provide additional benefit. In some
patients, immunomodulatory treatments such as intravenous immunoglobulin may be
beneficial. Physical and rehabilitation therapy may also be needed.
What is the prognosis for Stiff-Person
There is no cure for stiff-person syndrome. The long-term prognosis for individuals
with stiff-person syndrome is uncertain. Management of the disorder with drug therapy may
provide significant improvements and relief of symptoms.
What research is being done concerning
Research on stiff-person syndrome is aimed at enhancing scientific understanding of the
disorder and evaluating new therapeutic interventions.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892