Common Types of Movement Disorders

The term “movement disorders” refers to a group of nervous system (neurological) conditions that cause abnormal, increased, decreased or slowed movements, which may be voluntary or involuntary.

Ataxia

A disorder of the part of the brain that controls coordinated movement (cerebellum). Ataxia may cause uncoordinated or clumsy balance, speech or limb movements.

Cervical dystonia

This condition causes long-lasting or intermittent contractions (spasms) of the neck muscles. Cervical dystonia may cause the neck to turn in different ways.

Chorea

Chorea is characterized by involuntary movements that are repetitive, brief, irregular and somewhat rapid. The abnormal movements typically involve the face, mouth, trunk or limbs.

Dystonia

This condition involves sustained, involuntary muscle contractions with twisting or repetitive movements. Dystonia may affect the entire body (generalized dystonia) or only one part of the body (focal dystonia).

Functional movement disorder

This condition may resemble any of the movement disorders but is not caused by neurological disease.

Huntington's disease

This condition is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes uncontrolled movements (chorea), impaired cognitive abilities and psychiatric conditions. Huntington’s disease is an inherited (genetic), progressive disease.

Multiple system atrophy

This rare condition causes movement disorders, including ataxia and parkinsonism. It is a progressive neurological disorder that affects many brain functions and can cause low blood pressure or impaired bladder function.

Myoclonus

Myoclonus causes sudden, involuntary twitching or jerking of a muscle or group of muscles.

Parkinson's disease

This disease is a slowly progressive, neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement of different parts of the body. Parkinson’s disease may cause tremor, stiffness (rigidity), decreased movement (bradykinesia) or imbalance. It may also cause other non-movement symptoms.

Learn more about Parkinson's disease »

Parkinsonism

This term refers to a group of conditions that have symptoms similar to those of Parkinson's disease. Not everyone who has parkinsonism has Parkinson’s disease.

Learn more about Parkinsonism »

Progressive supranuclear palsy

This is a rare neurological disorder that causes problems with walking, balance and eye movements, caused by damage to nerve cells in the brain. It has many of the same symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

This movement disorder causes unpleasant, abnormal feelings in the legs while relaxing or lying down. It creates a strong urge to get up and move. Symptoms are often relieved by movement.

Tardive dyskinesia

This neurological condition causes repetitive and involuntary movements such as grimacing, eye blinking and other uncontrollable movements. Tardive dyskinesia is caused by long-term use of certain psychiatric drugs.

Tourette syndrome

Usually beginning between childhood and teenage years, Tourette syndrome is a neurological condition that causes repetitive movements (motor tics) and vocal sounds (vocal tics).

Tremor

This movement disorder causes involuntary, rhythmic shaking of different parts of the body, most often occurring in the hands or head. The most common type of tremor is called “essential tremor.”

Wilson's disease

This is a rare genetic disorder that causes excessive amounts of copper to build up in the body. The increased amount of copper causes neurological problems.

What is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder that affects a patient's ability to produce and control body movement. It is chronic (persisting over a long period of time) and progressive (getting worse over time). Usually affecting older adults, Parkinson's leads to severe disability for some people, but others may suffer only minor motor disorders.

In Parkinson's disease, a loss of neurons in the brain results in a reduction of the amount of dopamine, a chemical messenger that helps control muscle movement. Without dopamine, nerve cells cannot properly send messages.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

How do you know if you or a loved one has Parkinson’s disease? A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease can be made by a healthcare provider, but there are several symptoms that can be early warning signs. Having one of these symptoms is usually not a cause for worry, but if you or a loved one shows more than one sign, it’s time to see the doctor.

The physicians at Mischer Neuroscience Associates, affiliated with Memorial Hermann Health System, share early warning signs that you should not ignore.

Tremor

Slight shaking or movement in your finger, hand, chin, lip or leg while you are at rest

Trouble Moving or Walking

Stiffness in your arms, legs, shoulders or hips, or stiffness swinging your arms while walking

Loss of Smell

A new loss of smell, either partial or complete, especially when smelling foods such as bananas, dill pickles or licorice

Trouble Sleeping

Sudden movements while asleep, including thrashing around, kicking and punching, or falling out of bed

Smaller Handwriting

A sudden change in the way you write with pen or pencil, especially if you begin writing smaller letters than usual or crowding words together

A Soft or Low Voice

A change in the sound of your voice that is softer than usual or is hoarse

Constipation

Difficulty or straining to empty your bowels

Masked Face

An expression on your face that does not match your mood, including having a serious, depressed or mad look when you are feeling happy. This can also include blank stares or reduced blinking.

Stooping or Hunching Over

Changes in your posture, including leaning, slouching or not standing up as straight as you normally do

Dizziness or Fainting

Feeling dizzy or faint when you stand up, which may indicate low blood pressure, can be linked to Parkinson’s disease.

What Is Parkinsonism?

Parkinsonism refers to any condition that involves the types of movement changes seen in Parkinson's disease, such as tremors, slow movement, impaired speech, decrease in facial expressions, and muscle stiffness.

These movements are caused by changes in or destruction of nerve cells that produce the chemical dopamine in a certain area of the brain.

Not all patients who have Parkinsonism have Parkinson's disease. Parkinsonian disorders may be caused by other conditions like:

  • meningitis
  • encephalitis
  • progressive supranuclear palsy
  • stroke
  • caused by certain medications

Movement Disorders Treatment Options

The movement disorders team at Memorial Hermann performs the following therapeutic interventions:

There is no known cure for Parkinson's disease or other movement. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms.

Once a diagnosis is made, the medical team employs the most advanced treatment options available, including deep brain stimulation (DBS) for surgery to treat essential tremor, Parkinson's disease and dystonia. Therapeutic goals are symptom-driven and focused on maintaining patients at the highest level of function possible. Medical regimens are tailored to patient age, prominent symptoms and the potential side effects profile.

Patients are advised to work closely with a physician to develop the best medical treatment program including medications which control symptoms mostly by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain. Never change or stop taking any medication without talking with your physician.

Parkinson's Research

The physician team is also at the forefront of research, currently focusing on disease pathogenesis and neuromodulation with the ultimate goal of identifying new medical and surgical interventions.

Dr. Saman Javedan on Houston Life

Learn how deep brain stimulation surgery can help patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Read the Full Story

Debra's Story: Deep Brain Stimulation

Watch how the team at Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience uses deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery to help reduce Debra’s symptoms of Parkinson's disease and improve her quality of life.

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