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Movement Disorders

Movement disorders are a group of neurological disorders that manifest as abnormal voluntary movements, involuntary movements and paucity of movements caused by a dysfunctional nervous system. Movement disorders includes a wide range of neurologic diseases like: Ataxia, Dystonia, Tremors, Huntington’s disease, Myoclonus, Parkinson’s Disease, Tardive Dyskenesia, Tourette Syndrome and Wilson’s Disease and some may feel Epilepsy falls into this category.

Symptoms of Movement Disorders

Individuals suffering from functional movement disorders may have these ranges of disabling and distressing symptomatology:

Tremors – the uncontrollable shaking of arms and legs may not be continuous in the case of functional tremors.

Twitching and Jerks – Sudden abrupt movements in response to an abrupt introduction of stimulus like loud noise, lighting or noxious stimuli.

Spasms and Contractures – Spasms refer to abnormal posturing of stance and limb which is temporary, while contractures are abnormal posturing which are permanent

Abnormal Gait – Gait refers to the stance during walking, abnormal gait and may include a dragging gait of one foot and the unsteady gait which is associated with fear.


Movement disorders may be diagnosed with full certainty by an expert neurologist during a Q and A session, including: a detailed history intake, physical examination and neurological exam. The results may be likely to reveal the diagnosis without ancillary laboratories. However, the following diagnostic modalities may assist in the diagnoses of select movement disorders, with Epilepsy having its own set of diagnostic tools.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – This imaging method uses magnetic and sound waves to elucidate the internal substance of the brain. In Parkinson’s disease, the brain stem is partially denuded at level of the substantia nigra which may be detected through this test.  This part of the brain is responsible for sending out neurotransmitters responsible for the control of movement and coordination.

Additional Blood Tests – Blood tests may be required to demonstrate high levels of copper in the body which is diagnostic of the movement disorder in Wilson’s disease.

Cranial Computed Tomography (CT) – A CT uses multiple X-ray beams to paint a 3 dimensional picture of the brain. An imaging result of a small and atrophic cerebellum with characteristic movement disorder may suggest Ataxia or Parkinson’s Disease.

Other Possible Conditions?

There are individuals with signs of movement disorders that are not due to a dysfunctional nervous system. Complex Partial Seizures may manifest as involuntary movements but it may well be differentiated with the use of an Electroencephalogram (EEG) demonstrating abnormal brain waves. Lithium, Levopromazine and phenobarbitone toxicity may mimic the movement disorder symptoms and signs of Myoclonus. These conditions may easily be reversed with detoxification.

Treatment for Movement Disorders

 The following modalities may be treatment options for people with movement disorders.

Multi-Disciplinary Team Approach – Movement disorders may be best treated with a team, including:  a neurologist, neurosurgeon, physiatrist, and rehabilitation specialist(s). This includes the incorporation of  mindful holistic techniques  to support the overall well-being of the individual.

Deep Brain Stimulations – Mild electric shocks may be delivered to the brain, causing the stimulation of some parts of the brain and controlling some of the symptoms of movement disorders.

Toxin Injections – Botulinum Toxin injections may relieve signs of spasms and contractures in individuals with chronic movement disorders.

Medications – In Parkinson’s disease where the neurotransmitter dopamine is substantially low, maintenance medications of Levo Dopa may be given as an ongoing maintenance medication.

The Outcome

There is adequate evidence in numerous studies to support that select movement disorders improve with rehabilitation, especially for mobility and speech issues with the aid of rehabilitation.  A closely supervised physical rehabilitation process with a qualified specialist may greatly improve the prognosis of individuals with select movement disorders and eventually their quality of life. It is important to note that a more accurate idea of the prognosis for your condition depends upon the specific condition itself and other factors that relate to that specific condition.  

It is important to recognize that medications and medical procedures are associated with benefits and risks that should be discussed with your physician. It is important to recognize that all information contained on this website cannot be considered to be specific medical diagnosis, medical treatment, or medical advice. As always, you should consult with a physician regarding any medical condition. Your Health Access disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.