Céline Dion Says Singing with Stiff-Person Syndrome Feels Like "Somebody's Strangling You"

The singer also revealed that the muscle spasms from the rare neurological condition have been severe enough to result in broken ribs

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jun 7, 2024

NBC News is airing an exclusive new interview with Céline Dion on June 11. The broadcaster has shared a brief clip of the superstar's sit-down with TODAY's Hoda Kotb in advance, and it's already proven to be illuminating about her experience living with stiff-person syndrome (SPS).

Dion is set to give fans an intimate look into her life with the rare neurological condition — with which she was diagnosed late in 2022 — in the upcoming Irene Taylor-directed Prime Video documentary, I Am: Celine Dion, premiering June 25. Ahead of that, she's told Kotb that trying to sing with the condition can feel like "somebody's strangling you."

"It's like somebody's pushing your larynx, pharynx, this way," the singer explained, demonstrating by pressing inward on her throat with her fingers. Proceeding to talk in a breathy, restrained tone, she added, "It's like you're talking like that, and you cannot go higher or lower."

Dion went on to discuss the uncontrollable muscle spasms — which can be "abdominal, can be in the spine, can be in the ribs" — that characterize the progressive disorder. "It feels like if I point my feet, it will stay in [that position]. Or, if I cook — because I love to cook — my fingers, my hands will get in position. It's cramping, but it's like in a position of like, you cannot unlock them."

She said that she's even had muscle spasms so severe that they've broken her ribs. The severity of the SPS debilitation has resulted in Dion cancelling all of her touring commitments and remaining unsure if or when she'll be able to return to the stage. It was recently reported that she's considering doing a televised final performance of her greatest hits.

The full NBC News interview will air on June 11 at 10 p.m. ET. You can watch the preview clip of Dion's chat with Kotb in full here.

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