Stiff-Person Syndrome Is More Painful Than You Think — Here's What to Know

March 18, 2024 - PopSugar

MSU Health Care Neurology and Ophthalmology Medical Director Amit Sachdev, MD, MS

Originally published March 13, 2024 on

Stiff-person syndrome has gotten a lot of attention since Celine Dion announced in 2022 that she had been diagnosed with the neurological disorder. The iconic singer has made few public appearances since then, although her presentation at the 2024 Grammy Awards raised fresh questions about what stiff-person syndrome is and how it's treated.

Stiff-person is a rare neurological condition often marked by painful muscle stiffness and spasms. The name alone can lead some to underestimate the severity of the condition. After all, the name sounds like something you might experience after a sedentary day at home. But stiff-person syndrome is nothing like the kind of pain you might feel from sitting too long or not practicing good posture. Stiff-person syndrome is both serious and rare — estimates say it occurs in one out of every million people.

Because it's so uncommon, the disorder can also be misdiagnosed, leading to a delay in treatment. "Stiff-person is often confused for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and for spinal cord injury," says Amit Sachdev, MD, MS, medical director in the Department of Neurology at Michigan State University.