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Movement - uncontrollable
Uncontrollable movements include many types of movements you cannot control. They can affect the arms, legs, face, neck, or other parts of the body.
Examples of uncontrollable movements are:
- Loss of tone (asterixis)
- Slow, twisting, or continued movements (chorea, athetosis, or dystonia)
- Sudden jerking movements (myoclonus, hallismus)
- Uncontrollable repetitive movements that cause tremor
See also: Tardive dyskinesia
Uncontrolled movements; Involuntary body movements; Body movements - uncontrollable; Dyskinesia; Athetosis; Myoclonus; Ballismus
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:
- Genetic disorder
- Lack of oxygen (hypoxia) at birth
- Kernicterus (too much bilirubin in the central nervous system)
Causes in adults:
- Genetic disorder
- Stroke or brain injury
- Worsening (degenerative) disease
Physical therapy that includes swimming, stretching, walking, and balancing exercises can help with coordination and slow the damage.
Family support is important. It helps to openly discuss your feelings. Self-help groups are available in many communities. Try physical therapy as needed.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have any unexplained movements that you cannot control and that don't go away.
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. You may 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 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 done include:
- Blood tests (such as CBC or blood differential)
- CT scan of the head or affected area
- Lumbar puncture
- MRI of the head or affected area
Treatment will depend on the cause. Many uncontrollable movements may be treated with medications. At other times, symptoms may improve on their own. Your health care provider will make recommendations based on your signs and symptoms.
Jankovic J, Lang AE. Movement disorders: diagnosis and assessment. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Bradley: Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann Elsevier; 2008:chap 23.
Lang A. Other movement disorders. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 434.
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.