What Is Stiff-Person Syndrome? Celine Dion Cancels Tour Over Rare Muscular Disorder


Celine Dion announced Friday that she has canceled her upcoming world tour as the five-time Grammy winner tries to “get her strength back” after being diagnosed with stiffness syndrome, a rare muscle disorder that affects fewer than 5,000 people in the U.S. but has no known cure.

Key facts

Dion, Canadian pop and ballad singer known for singing “The Power of Love” and “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” and whose 1997 blockbuster hit “My Heart Will Go On” Titanic became an instant bestseller, announced in an Instagram post, she canceled all remaining 2023 and 2024 dates on her Courage World Tour.

In her announcement, Dion said dates on the tour, which runs through April 2024, would be canceled “until I’m ready to get back on stage again” and tickets for the 42 shows she had planned in Europe would be refunded.

The cancellation comes nearly five months after Dion first postponed her 2023 tour dates when she announced she had been diagnosed with the disorder, an autoimmune disorder that affects the brain and spinal cord, causing people to develop “abnormal, often slouched postures” and occasionally impairing ability people to walk according to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS) affects approximately fewer than 5,000 people in the US, according to Columbia University Irving Medical Center, with symptoms including stiffness in the muscles of the trunk, arms, and legs, and sensitivity to touch, noise, and emotional stress, which can trigger muscle spasms in diagnosed individuals.

Scientists have not determined the specific cause of SPS, although researchers believe it may be the result of an autoimmune reaction in which the immune system attacks a protein inside the body called glutamic acid decarboxylase, which makes an acid that regulates motor neurons, according to Yale Medicine.

There is also no cure for SPS, although treatment often includes sedatives, steroids, and muscle relaxants, along with immunotherapy and physical therapy.

A surprising fact

SPS calls twice as often in women than in men, and is often associated with autoimmune diseases including type 1 diabetes, pernicious anemia, thyroiditis, and vitiligo, as well as those with breast, lung, kidney, colon, and thyroid cancers.

Key background

Dion won her first Grammy Award in 1992 for her duet with Peabo Bryson in the Disney animated classic Beauty and the Beast. She has won seven Billboard Music Awards and received 12 Grammy nominations in addition to her five Grammy wins. In April 2019, she launched the Courage World Tour, performing 52 concerts in North America before abruptly stopping at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. While the tour was on hiatus, Dion starred in her first film, a romantic comedy called To love again, and released five original songs for its soundtrack. She planned to resume the tour on August 26 with a series of shows in Amsterdam, Paris, Copenhagen and Antwerp, Belgium, before heading to Norway, Sweden and Finland, and also planned 23 shows across Europe in 2024, starting in Prague and ending in in London.

Further reading

Celine Dion diagnosed with stiff person syndrome (Forbes)

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Forbes – Business

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