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Movement - uncontrollable

Definition

Uncontrollable movements are slow, twisting, continuous, and involuntary movements of the arms, legs, face, neck, or other parts of the body.

See also: Tardive dyskinesia

Alternative Names

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

Considerations

This condition is usually a lifelong problem that begins during childhood and is characterized by involuntary neck, face, forearm, wrist, and hand movements. Facial grimaces along with tongue and jaw movements are often associated with involuntary neck movements.

Stress and activity often aggravate this condition, and relaxation and sleep help relieve the problem.

Causes

IN CHILDREN

IN ADULTS

  • Drug toxicity
  • Degenerative disease
  • Genetic disorder
  • Neoplastic disease (tumors)
  • Vascular (blood vessel) disease, usually stroke

Home Care

Swimming, stretching, walking, and balancing exercises can help coordination and slow down the deterioration process.

Family support is important, and open discussion of feelings is recommended. Self-help groups are available in many communities, and physical therapy should be sought as necessary.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If there are any persistent involuntary movements that are unexplained, you should call your health care provider.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your symptoms and medical history. The physical examination may include detailed examination of both the nervous and the muscular systems.

Medical history questions may include:

  • Does there seem to be prolonged muscle contractions causing the abnormal posture?
  • Are the arms affected?
  • Are the legs affected?
  • When did this behavior begin?
  • Did it occur suddenly?
  • Has it been worsening gradually over months?
  • Is it present continuously?
  • At what age did this symptom begin?
  • Is it worse after exercise?
  • Is it worse when emotionally stressed?
  • Is it better after sleep?
  • What makes it better?
  • What other symptoms are also present?

Tests that may be done include:

Uncontrollable movements may be treated with various medications. Your health care provider will make recommendations based on your signs and symptoms.

References

Fahn S. Hypokinesia and hyperkinesia. In: Goetz, CG, ed. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 16.

Lang A. Other movement disorders. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 434.


Review Date: 3/26/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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