Most Common Movement Disorders

We treat a range of movement disorders. The most common ones are:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Atypical parkinsonian disorders
  • Ataxia
  • Tic disorders
  • Functional movement disorders
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Essential tremor
  • Dystonia

Parkinson’s disease and other related disorders cause the limbs to shake rhythmically (tremor) when the body is at rest, and also cause muscles to tighten and become rigid, affecting posture — all of which can make it difficult to walk and engage in daily activities.

Atypical parkinsonian disorders (sometimes called Parkinson’s Plus) are progressive diseases that have some of the same symptoms (tremor, slowness and stiffness) as Parkinson’s disease. They often have additional symptoms that are not common in Parkinson’s and may not respond well to Parkinson’s medications.

Ataxia refers to uncoordinated movement due to a muscle control problem that causes an inability to coordinate movements. People affected by Ataxia may experience problems with using their fingers and hands, arms, legs, walking, speaking or moving their eyes. Many symptoms of Ataxia mimic those of being drunk, such as slurred speech, stumbling, falling and incoordination.

Tic disorders are characterized by sudden twitches, movements, or sounds that people do repeatedly. For example, a person with a motor tic might keep blinking over and over, or a person with a vocal tic might keep making a grunting sound. People with Tourette's disorder have both motor and vocal tics, with onset of the tics before age 18.

Functional movement disorders refer to abnormal involuntary movements that are caused by a problem with how signals are sent through the brain. Unlike movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, functional movement disorders are not due to damage to the nervous system, and can be reversible.

Huntington's disease is an inherited disorder that causes brain cells, called neurons, to die in various areas of the brain, which in turn causes disability that gets worse over time. More than 30,000 Americans have Huntington’s disease. Symptoms include uncontrolled movements of the arms, legs, head, face and upper body. It can also cause a decline in thinking and reasoning skills, including memory, concentration, judgment and ability to plan and organize. People with the disease also develop impaired coordination, slurred speech and difficulty feeding and swallowing.

Each child of a parent with Huntington’s disease has a 50-50 chance of inheriting the gene that causes the disease. A child who does not inherit the gene will generally not pass it on. A person who inherits the gene will eventually develop Huntington’s disease.

Essential tremor is another disorder that can cause a person’s arms to shake rhythmically when the arms are being used to perform a function such as eating, writing, dressing, drinking or when holding a posture such as with the arms outstretched in front of the body. The tremor can also affect the head, voice, legs and trunk. Some people even feel an internal shake. Essential tremor (ET) is often confused with Parkinson’s disease, although it’s eight times more common, affecting an estimated 10 million Americans and millions more worldwide.

Dystonia is a disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions that cause slow repetitive movements or abnormal postures. Some individuals with dystonia may have a tremor or other neurologic features. There are several different forms of dystonia that may affect only one muscle, groups of muscles, or muscles throughout the body. Some forms of dystonia are genetic but the cause for the majority of cases is not known. Cervical dystonia causes involuntary twisting or turning of the head, as well as head tremors. Other forms of dystonia can cause writer’s cramp, exaggerated blinking or involuntary jaw and mouth movements.