Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS)
Tremendous attention is being paid to “Stiff Person Syndrome” since the diagnosis for Celine Dion.
To understand SPS, you must first understand how to flush a toilet. You see, as you apply pressure to the handle on the toilet, a small rush of water will begin to flow, and if you push harder, you’ll get even closer to the toilet flushing! More downward pressure on the handle takes you right to the very moment, the closest a moment can get, to flushing, without actually flushing. Nothing has flushed, and then you apply the lightest teensy-weensy bit of pressure and it pushes the handle over the edge, the floodgates open and the toilet flushes.
Simply put, stress works the same way. More pressure and there are signs that the toilet will eventually flush, but it doesn’t flush just then. It’s not until there is just enough stress (pressure) to take you to the very moment, the closest a moment can get to being THE moment when your body shuts down.
SPS is not fully understood. This means its cause is not fully understood. It is very rare, and more common in women. Stiff-person syndrome (SPS) is a progressive neurological disorder. Symptoms may include stiff muscles in the trunk (torso), arms, and legs; and greater sensitivity to noise, touch, and emotional distress, which can set off muscle spasms. The onset of SPS is often associated with extreme stress, or high levels of prolonged stress.
In the video above, the doctor mentions that the first round of drug therapy that seems to work best is high levels of Valium (Diazepam). Diazepam is used to treat anxiety. If an anxiety medication is most initially most effective in treating SPS, what does that imply?
“People with SPS may be afraid to leave the house because street noises, such as the sound of a car horn, can trigger spasms and falls.” The main symptoms of Stiff Person Syndrome are muscle stiffening in the torso and limbs, along with episodes of violent muscle spasms. These can be triggered by environmental stimuli (like loud noises) or emotional stress. The muscle spasms can be so severe that they cause the person to fall down. (Source: yalemedicine.org)
Now wait a second! Sounds are only sounds because ears hear them. Sounds are ultimately processed in the brain. Loud sounds for people who hear often startles them. Have you ever been startled when you have a stiff neck? You jump, your neck tightens even more causing you to scream and retract your neck and head. Might it be the case that may have been the startle and physical domino effect rather than the sound itself, causing the spasms and potential falls? Is it the stress of the noise that causes one to physically react, or is it just the presence of sound whether your brain processes it or not? If a person with SPS were deaf, I highly doubt that the sound that they can’t hear, would trigger a reaction and muscle spasms.
Stress can cause muscle tension.
Stress can cause focal dystonia.
Stress can cause Benign Fasciculation Syndrome.
Stress is also associated with causing the following:
Some patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), (aka myalgic encephalitis or systemic exertion intolerance disease*)
Paresthesias (numbness, tingling, burning)
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Burning chest pain (resembles acid reflux)
Hypersensitivity syndromes (to touch, sound, smells, foods, medications)
Irritable bowel syndrome
Interstitial cystitis (Irritable bladder syndrome)
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
Inappropriate sinus tachycardia
Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (Complex regional pain syndrome)
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome
Chronic abdominal and pelvic pain syndromes
Chronic tendonitis (in any joint)
Repetitive strain injury
Foot pain syndromes
Myofascial pain syndrome
Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS)
“Stiff person syndrome is a rare autoimmune neurological condition that affects the central nervous system and can cause rigidity throughout the body and painful muscle spasms”. (Source: NYT) Research published in 2003 on SPS showed that the autoimmune component (anti-GAD antibodies) is present in “up to 65% of the cases of SPS. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/referencework/9780122268700/encyclopedia-of-the-neurological-sciences)
Over time people with SPS may develop abnormal, often hunched over postures. Some people may be too disabled to walk or move. Many fall frequently because they do not have the normal reflexes to catch themselves. This can lead to serious injuries. People with SPS may be afraid to leave the house because street noises, such as the sound of a car horn, can trigger spasms and falls.
SPS affects twice as many women as men.
It is frequently associated with other autoimmune diseases such as type-I diabetes, thyroiditis, vitiligo, and pernicious anemia.
Scientists don’t yet understand what causes SPS, but research indicates that it is the result of an autoimmune response gone awry in the brain and spinal cord.
SPS is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, psychosomatic illness, or anxiety and phobia. A definitive diagnosis can be made with a blood test that measures the level of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) antibodies.
GAD antibodies appear in a number of diverse syndromes and so cannot be used diagnostically without clinical reference. (Source: science direct.com)
Most people with SPS have elevated (higher) levels of GAD antibodies. Antibody titers are important for the diagnosis of SPS. A titer is a laboratory test that measures the presence and amount of antibodies in blood. Elevated GAD titers, up to 10 times above normal, also are seen in diabetes but in SPS the titers are very high (at least 10 times above the range seen in diabetes) or are present in the spinal fluid. (Source: NIH.GOV)
What you are about to read is speculation based on research of the life of Celine Dion. I have no relationship with her, nor do I know her. This is purely theoretical, but based on the public information able to be gathered at this time, seems entirely plausible.
When reading about Celine Dion’s history, it becomes quickly apparent that her life has been filled with ups and downs. Extended periods of extreme stress interspersed with periods of less stress. For most of her life, her “toilet handle” was being depressed, but never being pushed to the point of “flushing”. In December 2022 she cancelled her performances due to a diagnosis of Stiff Person Syndrome. The past 6 years have been what would appear to be excruciatingly stressful.
The following was taken from wikipedia:
On 14 January 2016, Angélil died at age 73 of throat cancer. His funeral was held on 22 January 2016, in Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, where he and Dion wed 21 years earlier. The couple’s eldest son, René-Charles, gave the eulogy just three days before his 15th birthday. Following Angélil’s death, Dion became the sole owner and president of her management and production companies, including CDA Productions and Les Productions Feeling.
Two days after Angélil’s death—on what would have been her husband’s birthday—Dion’s brother, Daniel, died at age 59, also of cancer.
She lost her husband and brother within two days of each other, and was then placed in charge of running two companies, while caring for her son, and dealing with her own musical career.
The question is, could the past 6 years, when stacked on a life of high stress, push her over the edge into a neurological disorder that is often triggered by stress? Was her toilet finally totally flushed by stress?
In the absence of medical information, it’s hard to know how likely this is, and how much of her SPS could be due to other causes. With any number of possible contributing factors, one thing is biologically certain. Celine Dion needs her nervous system to be working as efficiently as possible. She needs a neurological “re-boot”. Whether she handles stress well or not, she’s crossed the line and her neurology and biochemistry is certainly affected. With a diagnosis and prognosis that goes along with SPS, it only adds to her stress. Celine Dion is a rare talent, with even more rare success. While she doesn’t need to work for money, her soul needs to perform and this diagnosis puts her future in extreme jeopardy.
Celine Dion needs a chiropractic neurological intervention. Research on chiropractic care shows that it positively impacts the brain, the nervous system, stress levels, adaptation, sleep and recovery, as well as emotional processing. Again, the effect of chiropractic care on the brain and nervous system, on stress, on the musculoskeletal system, and on the interaction between all of these is well documented in research, and would most likely benefit her and anyone else suffering with SPS.
Dr. Lou Jacobs is a chiropractor and acupuncturist in Portland, Maine who has been specializing in the health of musicians and performing artists for over 20 years. Dr. Lou’s musical client list speaks for itself, and no doctor in the State of Maine has more experience in the health of musicians and their injuries, than Dr. Lou.
For inquiries about health coaching for musicians with Dr. Lou, please call (207) SPINAL-1