What Is Stiff-Person Syndrome? Celine Dion’s Neurological Disorder Explained

Celine Dion revealed in an emotional video posted to Instagram on Thursday (Dec. 8) that she is battling a rare neurological disorder called “Stiff-Person Syndrome.”

“As you know, I’ve always been an open book. And I wasn’t ready to say anything before,” said Dion in the solemn, brief clip. “But I’m ready now… ’I’ve been dealing with problems with my health for a long time, and it’s been really difficult for me to face these challenges and to talk about everything that I’ve been going through.”

Due to the severe muscle spasms that Dion says “affect every aspect of my daily life,” she will not be able to re-start her tour in Europe in February as planned. All of her spring 2023 dates will move to 2024 and 8 of her summer 2023 shows have been cancelled.

Following Dion’s announcement, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about the lesser-known disorder.

What Is Stiff-Person Syndrome?

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Stiff-Person Syndrome, or SPS, is a very rare neurological disorder that has features of an autoimmune disease. “SPS is characterized by fluctuating muscle rigidity in the trunk and limbs and a heightened sensitivity to stimuli such as noise, touch, and emotional distress, which can set off muscle spasms,” per NINDS, which also notes that the disorder affects twice as many women as men and science does not yet understand what causes it. The disorder is also often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia or anxiety.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, SPS only affects one or two in a million people.

What Are the Symptoms of Stiff-Person Syndrome?

“Abnormal postures, often hunched over and stiffened, are characteristic of the disorder,” according to NINDS. Those with SPS can also be unable to walk or move or might be triggered into a spasm or fall due to loud noises.

Are There Treatments for Stiff-Person Syndrome?

The current treatment is a regimen of anti-convulsants and valium and intravenous treatments aimed at reducing stiffness and lowering sensitivity to touch, noise and stress. The preferred treatments can improve symptoms, but a cure is not yet known and sufferers are often subject to frequent falls because of a lack of the usual defensive reflexes.

Rania Aniftos