Movement Disorders

Certain neurological conditions can cause uncontrolled or unwanted physical movements, such as twitching and shaking. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, sometimes interfering with the patient’s ability to eat, drink, write and perform other daily tasks. 

Some movement disorders are genetic, while others develop for unknown reasons. Researchers believe the abnormal movements may result from autoimmune conditions, nervous system injuries, infections and certain medications that affect the nervous system. 

Conditions That Cause Abnormal Movements 

Movement disorders are associated with several neurological conditions, including: 

Causes of Movement Disorders

There are several factors that can contribute to movement disorders, including:

  • Genetics
  • Toxins
  • Injury to the brain, peripheral nerves or spinal cord
  • Medication side effects
  • Conditions such as stroke, metabolic disorders, infections and vascular diseases

In some cases, the causes of movement disorders are unknown.

Movement Disorder Symptoms

The symptoms of a movement disorder will depend on the specific condition, its stage and its severity, among several other factors. Some common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty with speech (dyskinesia)
  • Loss of or slowed voluntary movement (hypokinemia)
  • Involuntary movements (hyperkinesia)
  • Slow movement (bradykinesia)
  • Rigidity or stiffness of the limbs or trunk (spasticity)

Diagnosing Movement Disorders

Diagnosing a movement disorder begins with a physical exam and neurological assessment. If a physician suspects a movement disorder is present, a series of tests will be ordered to confirm or rule out a diagnosis. This may include:

  • Blood tests
  • A lumbar puncture to assess cerebrospinal fluid
  • Imaging tests, such as a PET scan or CT scan, to detect visible abnormalities in the brain
  • A muscle biopsy to rule out orthopedic issues
  • An electromyography to measure electrical impulses along nerves

Treatment Options for Movement Disorders 

Movement disorder treatment may include a combination of: 

  • Weighting – Simple wrist weights may relieve mild tremors and improve hand and arm function. 
  • Biofeedback – Often used to promote relaxation, biofeedback is a noninvasive technique that can help a patient gain control over stress and make it easier to deal with abnormal movements. 
  • Medications – Some abnormal movements can be controlled with medications, such as beta-adrenergic blockers (beta-blockers) and anti-seizure drugs. 

If the abnormal movements cannot be controlled with conservative treatment, a surgical procedure such as deep brain stimulation may be considered. 

Focused Ultrasound – What to Expect 

Focused ultrasound (FUS), also known as high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), is a minimally invasive treatment option for patients with a disabling tremor. This groundbreaking treatment option is guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and does not require incisions or invasive probes. During treatment, ultrasound waves pass safely through a patient’s skull to precisely heat and destroy specific regions deep inside the brain that are involved in generating tremor. As such, disabling tremor is immediately abolished and the patients are sent home the same day. 

Deep Brain Stimulation – What to Expect 

Deep brain stimulation is a minimally invasive technique that can help “deactivate” the part of the brain that is signaling the muscles to move uncontrollably. The procedure involves implanting electrodes in specific areas of the brain. Once implanted, the electrodes continually generate mild electrical pulses that can interfere with the brain’s erroneous signals. Although deep brain stimulation cannot cure a movement disorder, it can potentially reduce unwanted physical movements and improve the patient’s quality of life. 

Effectiveness of Movement Disorder Treatments 

Tampa General Hospital offers a full spectrum of care for patients with movement disorders. Our specialized teams have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating all types of neurological issues, including rare and complex conditions, using innovative techniques and state-of-the-art technologies. Deep brain stimulation is a particularly effective method for certain patients, with the potential side effects being generally mild and reversible.