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Movement - uncontrollable

  • Definition
    • 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)
  • Alternative Names
    • Uncontrolled movements; Involuntary body movements; Body movements - uncontrollable; Dyskinesia; Athetosis; Myoclonus; Ballismus

  • 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
  • Home Care
    • 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.

  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
    • Call your health care 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. Movement disorders: diagnosis and assessment. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 21.

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