Celine Dion Cancels Performances After Stiff Person Syndrome Affects Her Ability to Sing

Celine Dion

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Here’s what you should know about this rare neurological disorder.

In a deeply emotional video, Celine Dion revealed her battle with a rare neurological condition that’s keeping the legendary vocalist from returning to the stage. 

On Thursday, the Grammy Award-winning singer posted a five-minute video in which she says that she’s been diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome, a disease that alternates between causing spasms and muscle rigidity. 

“Unfortunately, these spasms affect every aspect of my daily life, sometimes causing difficulties when I walk and not allowing me to use my vocal cords to sing the way I am used to,” Dion says. “It hurts me to tell you today, this means I won’t be ready to restart my tour in Europe in February.”

The 54-year-old was booked for a string of shows this spring in Europe, which are now being pushed to 2024. She’s also canceling eight of her summer 2023 performances, the New York Times reports.

Health concerns had previously prevented Dion from performing her megahits like “My Heart Will Go On” and “Because You Loved Me.” Last year, she told fans that “severe and persistent muscle spasms” had forced her to indefinitely postpone the opening of her Las Vegas residency. And as her symptoms continued, she announced that she was canceling the remainder of her Courage World Tour. 

“I was really hoping that I’d be good to go by now, but I suppose I just have to be more patient and follow the regimen that my doctors are prescribing,” Dion said in a press release in January.

The singer says now that medical experts have only recently discovered what was behind her muscle spasms, and that she’s “working hard with a sports medicine therapist every day to build back my strength and my ability to perform again.”

“I have to admit, it’s been a struggle,” she says. “But I have hope that I’m on the road to recovery. This is my focus, and I’m doing everything that I can to recuperate.”

What is Stiff Person Syndrome?

The disease is incredibly rare, impacting only one or two people in a million, according to the Stiff Person Syndrome Center at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Its main symptoms are violent muscle spasms and stiffness, which can be triggered by a wide variety of things, like cold weather, sudden movement, loud noises, or stress. That may make activities like walking difficult and can lead to greater impairment down the road. 

Researchers haven’t pinned down what causes the disorder, but think it may be an autoimmune reaction where the body attacks nerve cells responsible for muscle control. According to Yale Medicine, most people begin experiencing symptoms between the ages of 30 and 60. 

There isn’t currently a cure for the ailment. Most treatment focuses on helping patients relieve their spasms with sedatives and muscle relaxants. Physical therapy, as Dion mentions, is also key to managing the condition.