Tonic seizures make the muscles tighten and the body go stiff. This can happen on one side or both sides of the body.

    Fast facts


    What happens

    If you have generalised tonic seizures, all your muscles tighten and your body goes stiff. Your neck will extend, and your eyes open wide and roll upwards. Your arms may raise upwards and your legs might stretch or contract. If standing you might fall over.

    Sometimes the tightening muscles push air out of lungs which might cause you to cry out. If you do make a noise it’s the sound of air being squeezed out of the lungs, not because you are in pain. Some people stop breathing during a tonic seizure.

    If you have a focal tonic seizure your muscles tighten in just one area of the body.

    How people can help

    If you have tonic seizures

    It’s helpful for others to:

    It’s not helpful to:

    After the seizure

    Do something

    Keeping a seizure diary really helps people to understand their seizures better.

    What percentage of your seizures are you recording in a seizure diary?


    Go to the Seizures menu

    Updated 12 May 2020
    Review 12 May 2023
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