Movement disorders cause increased and/or slow movement. They can affect actions you choose to make or cause uncontrolled movements. There are several movement disorders. Some of the most common include Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and restless leg syndrome.
Movement disorders are a group of neurological conditions that cause abnormal movements. They could be increased movement (like spasms, jerking or shaking) and/or decreased or slow movement. They can affect actions you choose to make (voluntary) or cause uncontrolled (involuntary) movements.
Every body movement you make, from lifting your leg to moving your jaw and tongue to talk, involves complex communication between your:
Damage to or malfunction of the areas of your brain that control movement results in a movement disorder.
There are several different movement disorders, and they vary in severity. Some only affect one area of your body, while others can affect most of your body. Some may interfere with certain tasks, like writing, while others can lead to issues with walking and mobility.
Abnormal movements may be the only part of a condition, such as in essential tremor. Or they can be one of several symptoms or syndromes, like in Parkinson’s disease (PD). In addition, certain movement disorders can be both a condition by themselves and a symptom of other conditions, like myoclonus.
It’s important to note that conditions that result in a lack of movement (like paralysis) or weakened muscles (such as muscular dystrophy) aren’t considered movement disorders even though they affect mobility. Movement disorders cause abnormal, unwanted movements.
There are two main types of abnormal movements:
A movement disorder can have both of these or just one.
Hyperkinetic movement disorders involve increased movement. “Hyper” means “over” or “beyond,” and “kinetic” means “motion.” It can affect voluntary movement (actions you choose to take) or cause involuntary movement (actions that are out of your control).
Types of hyperkinetic movement include:
Hypokinetic movement disorders involve decreased or slow movement. “Hypo” means “below” or “beneath.” It generally affects voluntary movement.
Parkinsonism is the main type of hypokinetic movement. It’s an umbrella term that refers to brain conditions that cause slowed movements, rigidity (stiffness), tremor or balance trouble.
Neurodegenerative parkinsonism most commonly happens with Parkinson’s disease, but it can also be a feature of the following conditions:
Parkinsonism can also develop due to repeated head injuries, toxic substances, use of psychiatric medications and a lack of blood flow to certain areas of your brain.
Bradykinesia is another hypokinetic movement. It involves slowness of movement and speed or progressive hesitations or halts as you continue movements. It’s one of the main signs of Parkinson’s disease.
There are several movement disorders. Some include:
The two most common movement disorders are Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor.
The symptoms of movement disorders vary widely. All movement disorders cause abnormal movements. Some movement disorders have other symptoms, such as thinking and mood changes. The symptoms can range in severity from barely noticeable to disruptive.
In general, signs and symptoms of movement disorders include:
Abnormal movements can affect one or more of several parts of your body, including your:
We all experience uncontrollable movements at times, such as random muscle twitches, hypnic jerks or hiccups. However, unusual or persistent symptoms may be signs of a movement disorder. If you notice a consistent change in your or your child’s movements, it’s important to see a healthcare provider to receive a diagnosis and treatment.
In general, movement disorders develop from damage to or malfunction of certain parts of your brain that control movement, including your:
Several situations can result in damage to these areas, including:
Some movement disorders have a single cause that healthcare providers can identify. But in many cases, the condition results from multiple factors. Some movement disorders have unknown causes.
As movement disorders are often complex and mimic other conditions, your healthcare team will likely perform multiple tests to make a diagnosis. They’ll first start with a detailed history, physical exam and a neurological exam.
Based on your symptoms, they may order any of these tests:
Providers also often use imaging tests to help diagnose movement disorders. They may look at your brain, spinal cord or nerves. These tests may include:
The treatment for movement disorders varies based on the type. Most movement disorders don’t have a cure, so the goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. But some movement disorders, such as medication-induced parkinsonism, are often treatable.
Examples of treatments for movement disorders include:
No two people with a movement disorder are affected in the same way. The best way to know what to expect is to talk to healthcare providers who specialize in researching and treating your condition.
You may benefit from a team of healthcare providers, including:
If you or your child have a movement disorder, it’s important to advocate for the best medical care possible. Advocating for care helps ensure the best possible quality of life.
You and your family may also want to consider joining a support group to meet others who can relate to your experiences.
You should see a healthcare provider any time you have changes in how you usually move or issues that affect your routine and activities. The quicker your provider diagnoses a movement disorder, the sooner you’ll be able to start treatment.
If you have a movement disorder, you should also seek care when:
Your healthcare team can also tell you about other signs to watch for that mean you need to see them soon or that you need medical care right away.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Receiving a movement disorder diagnosis can be overwhelming. Your healthcare team will help you find a treatment plan that’s unique to your needs. It’s important to make sure you’re getting the support you need and to stay attentive to your health. Know that your healthcare team will be there to support you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/23/2023.
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