Chorea; Muscle - jerky movements (uncontrolled); Hyperkinetic movements; Myoclonus; Ballismus
Jerky body movement is a condition in which a person makes fast movements that they cannot control and that have no purpose. These movements interrupt the person's normal movement or posture.
When abnormal movements are excessive, they are called ‘hyperkinetic’ movements and include myoclonus (jerking and twitching) and ballismus (violent flinging of extremities), chorea (slow, twisting, or continued movements), among others.
This condition can affect one or both sides of the body. Typical movements of chorea include:
These movements do not usually repeat. They can look like they are being done on purpose. But the movements are not under the person's control. A person with chorea may look jittery or restless.
Chorea can be a painful condition, making it hard to do daily living activities.
There are many possible causes of unpredictable, jerky movements, including:
Treatment is aimed at the cause of the movements.
Excitement or fatigue can make hyperkinetic movement worse. Rest helps improve chorea. Try to reduce emotional stress.
Safety measures should also be taken to prevent injury from the involuntary movements.
Contact your health care provider if you have unexplained body motions that are unpredictable and do not go away.
The provider will perform a physical exam. This will include a detailed examination of the nervous and muscle systems.
You'll be asked about your medical history and symptoms, including:
Tests that may be ordered include:
Treatment is based on the type of hyperkinetic movement disorder the person has. If medicines are used, the provider will decide which medicine to prescribe based on the person's symptoms and test results.
Jankovic J, Lang AE. Diagnosis and assessment of Parkinson disease and other movement disorders. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 24.
Okun MS, Lang AE. Other movement disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 382.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 1/23/2023
Reviewed By: Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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