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Movement - uncontrollable

Uncontrolled movements; Involuntary body movements; Body movements - uncontrollable; Dyskinesia; Athetosis; Myoclonus; Ballismus

Uncontrollable movements include many types of movements that you cannot control. They can affect the arms, legs, face, neck, or other parts of the body.

Examples of uncontrollable movements are:

  • Loss of muscle tone (flaccidity)
  • Slow, twisting, or continued movements (chorea, athetosis, or dystonia)
  • Sudden jerking movements (myoclonus, ballismus)
  • Uncontrollable repetitive movements (asterixis or tremor)

Causes

There are many causes of uncontrolled movements. Some movements last only a short time. Others are due to a permanent condition of the brain and spinal cord and may get worse.

Some of these movements affect children. Others affect only adults.

Causes in children:

Causes in adults:

  • Nervous system diseases that are getting worse
  • Genetic disorder
  • Medicines
  • Stroke or brain injury
  • Tumors
  • Illicit drugs
  • Head and neck trauma

Home Care

Physical therapy that includes swimming, stretching, walking, and balancing exercises can help with coordination and slow the damage.

Ask the health care provider whether walking aids, such as a cane or walker, would be helpful.

People with this disorder are prone to falls. Talk with the provider about measures to prevent falls.

Family support is important. It helps to openly discuss your feelings. Self-help groups are available in many communities.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you have any unexplained movements that you cannot control that do not go away.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms and medical history. You will have a detailed examination of both the nervous and muscle systems.

Medical history questions may include:

  • Are there muscle contractions that may be causing the abnormal posture?
  • Are the arms affected?
  • Are the legs affected?
  • When did this movement begin?
  • Did it occur suddenly?
  • Has it been getting worse slowly over weeks or months?
  • Is it present all the time?
  • Is it worse after exercise?
  • Is it worse when you are stressed?
  • Is it better after sleep?
  • What makes it better?
  • What other symptoms are present?

Tests that may be ordered include:

Treatment depends on the cause. Many uncontrollable movements are treated with medicines. Some symptoms may improve on their own. Your provider will make recommendations based on your signs and symptoms.

References

Jankovic J, Lang AE. Diagnosis and assessment of Parkinson disease and other movement disorders. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 23.

Lang AE. Other movement disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 410.

  • Central nervous system

    Central nervous system - illustration

    The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system includes all peripheral nerves.

    Central nervous system

    illustration

    • Central nervous system

      Central nervous system - illustration

      The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system includes all peripheral nerves.

      Central nervous system

      illustration


     

    Review Date: 3/13/2019

    Reviewed By: Alireza Minagar, MD, MBA, Professor, Department of Neurology, LSU Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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