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Celine Dion Says Having Stiff Person Syndrome Is Like "Someone Is Strangling You"

The star opens up about her rare disorder in a preview of her historic NBC primetime special.

By Chris Phelan

In a sneak peek of her upcoming exclusive interview with TODAY's Hoda Kotb, five-time Grammy winner Celine Dion revealed her muscle spasms due to her Stiff Person Syndrome can, and have, broken her ribs.

How to Watch

Watch TODAY weekdays at 7AM ET on NBC.

The complete one-on-one interview will be part of an NBC primetime special at 10/9c on Tuesday, June 11, but viewers can watch an exclusive preview of the historic special below.

Celine Dion opens up about experiencing Stiff Person Syndrome

Dion explained that her symptoms began in her throat, which obviously immediately posed problems for the singer since she was due to embark on a tour.

"It's like somebody is strangling you," she told Kotb.

She went on to describe that her condition feels like someone is pressing down on her larynx and pharynx, leading to muscle spasms occurring when she pushes her vocal range higher or lower. 

In addition, the disorder has caused the Canadian-born star to suffer from muscle rigidity even when she's not performing. For example, when Dion tries to point her feet or put her hands in certain positions when she's cooking at home, they immediately cramp up and get into "a position of, like, you cannot unlock them."

Dion's diagnosis with Stiff Person Syndrome made headlines in December 2022 when she revealed in a social media post that she had to cancel an upcoming world tour due to her declining health.

On June 11, she'll give fans worldwide the health update they've been waiting for during an exclusive sit-down interview with Kotb.

What is Stiff Person Syndrome?

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, Stiff Person Syndrome (or SPS, for short) is a "rare autoimmune neurological disorder that most commonly causes muscle stiffness and painful spasms that come and go and can worsen over time. However, some people experience other symptoms such as an unsteady gait, double vision or slurred speech."

Originally called Stiff Man Syndrome, the autoimmune disorder is more common in women.

Although no cure exists, medications and treatments can help manage symptoms of SPS, including difficulty walking, unsteadiness due to sudden spasms, chronic pain, anxiety caused by the threat of spasms, and shortness of breath (if the disease is affecting muscles in the chest).

The disorder was named after the first reported symptoms: muscles would lock up, and the person would become "stiff as a board."

Celine Dion poses backstage at the 2024 grammys

In Celine Dion's case, SPS affects the muscles found in her upper body, especially her throat.

According to the National Library of Medicine, Stiff Person Syndrome affects approximately one in every one million people.

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