Movement Disorders- Overview


  • Movement disorders are a subspecialty of neurology focused on abnormal movements that can result from:
    • Brain dysfunction
    • Exposure to toxins or medications
    • Illnesses that affect the entire body
  • Movements can be graded on a scale of “too much” to “too little.”
    • Hyperkinetic – Too much or excessive movement
    • Hypokinetic – Not enough or too little movement, also described as “parkinsonian”
  • Movements are often differentiated by their speed from fast to slow.



  • It’s the fastest involuntary movement.
  • It appears as a sudden, brief muscle twitch or jerk that can cause a jump or jolt in the affected body part.
  • Examples:
    • Hiccups – Myoclonus of the diaphragm
    • Hypnic jerks – Body jerks that occur as a person falls to sleep
  • Movements are localized to one region or the whole body.
  • Causes:
    • Brain and spinal cord disease
    • Medications
    • Toxins
    • Organ failure
    • Infections
  • Treatment:
    • Depends on the cause
    • Anti-seizure drugs are often used


  • A sudden explosive, violent movement affects an entire limb or the whole body.
  • It appears like wild flailing or flinging, usually on one side of the body.
  • It may be associated with a stroke.


  • Movements or vocal sounds occur suddenly, repetitively, and/or nonrhythmically.
  • Examples:
    • Excessive blinking
    • Shoulder shrugs
    • Throat clearing
  • Other family members often have them too.
  • They’re often associated with obsessive-compulsive traits.
  • Semi-voluntary movements are usually preceded by an urge or inner sensation of mounting tension, and execution of the movement often provides some temporary relief.
  • They’re worsened by stress, fatigue, and excitement.
  • A diagnosis of Tourette syndrome is made if a person has both motor tics and vocalizations.
  • Treatments vary according to severity.


  • These back-and-forth rhythmic movements can be fast or slow.
  • Fast tremors include medication-induced tremors and essential tremors (isolated tremors that occurs with movement and without any other neurologic signs).
  • Slow tremors are more often associated with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Thyroid disease can cause tremors.
  • Treatment depends on the cause.

Chorea and athetosis

  • Chorea and athetosis are irregular and unpredictable writhing, squirming, jerky, and snakelike movements that flow across body parts.
  • Chorea comes from the Greek word for “dance.”
  • Chorea is a primary sign of Huntington’s disease.
  • Movements can be focal or generalized.


  • A sustained pattern of movement appears as turning or twisting.
  • Examples:
    • Neck – Cervical dystonia (the most common)
    • Hand – Writer’s cramp
    • Eyelid – Blepharospasm
  • Treatment:
    • Botulinum toxin injection
      • Botox
      • Xeomin
      • Myobloc
  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS) can be performed for generalized dystonia.
  • Read the website document Advanced Therapeutics for more information.


  • Slowness or scarcity of movement seen in parkinsonism


  • Muscle stiffness


  • Disordered, uncoordinated, or clumsy movements usually due to dysfunction of the cerebellum or brainstem
  • Sometimes a result of intoxication

More on Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson’s Disease Diary

Keeping a symptom diary helps fine-tune your treatment

Read More


Detailed instructions for use

Read More


Detailed instructions for use

Read More


Choosing high fiber foods can help reduce constipation.

Read More

Drug Induced Movement Disorders

Many therapeutic medicines and illicit drugs can cause movement disorders.

Read More

Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

Also known as Lewy Body Dementia

Read More

Impulse Control Disorders

ICD is possible while being treated with dopamine agonists.

Read More

Orthostatic Hypotension

Changing position causes a drop in blood pressure.

Read More

Autonomic Abnormalities in Parkinson’s Disease

The nervous system does not work properly and is unable to regulate body functions.

Read More

Advanced Treatments For Parkinson’s Disease

Advanced treatments that address symptoms that normal medications may not.

Read More