Movement Disorder

February 8, 2017

Movement, although seemingly simple like picking up a bit of paper, is actually a complex process that requires activities of several different parts of the brain working in tandem with muscles and nerves.

The term “movement disorders” refers to a group of nervous system (neurological) conditions that cause you to have abnormal voluntary or involuntary movements, or slow, reduced movements.

Different types of movement disorders can develop, depending on the nature and location of the damage or malfunction, as in the following –

  • Damage to the parts of the brain that control voluntary (intended) movement or the connections between the brain and spinal cord – Weakness or paralysis of the muscles involved in voluntary movements and exaggerated reflexes
  • Damage to the basal ganglia (collections of nerve cells located at the base of the cerebrum, deep within the brain) – Involuntary (unintended) or decreased movements, but not weakness or changes in reflexesc
  • Damage to the cerebellum – Loss of coordination

Some movement disorders, such as hiccups, are temporary, usually causing little inconvenience. Others, such as Parkinson disease, are serious and progressive, impairing the ability to speak, use the hands, walk, and maintain balance when standing.

Every body movement, from raising a hand to smiling, involves a complex interaction between the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), nerves, and muscles. Damage to or malfunction of any of these components may result in a movement disorder.

Treatment varies by disorder. Medicine can cure some disorders. Others get better when an underlying disease is treated. Often, however, there is no cure. In that case, the goal of treatment is to improve symptoms and relieve pain.


Most movement disorders are associated with pathological changes in the brain especially in an area of the brain called the basal ganglia. This region is part of the grey matter that lies deep within the brain.

The defects may also lie in the base of the brain or cerebellum. This leads to difficulty in walking, locomotion or maintenance of posture and normal body balance.

Movement disorders are widely prevalent and many of them have genetics as the common cause.

Movement disorders occur as a result of damage or disease in a region located at the base of the brain (basal ganglia). The basal ganglia is comprised of clusters of nerve cells (neurons) that send and receive electrical signals and are responsible for involuntary movement. Movement disorders can result from the following –

  • Age-related changes
  • Environmental toxins
  • Genetic disorders (e.g., Huntington’s disease, Wilson disease)
  • Medications (e.g., antipsychotic drugs)
  • Metabolic disorders (e.g., hyperthyroidism)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke


Symptoms of movement disorders vary and depend on the type and severity of the condition. The severity of movement disorder symptoms can be affected by factors such as anxiety, fatigue, medication, and stress.

Some movement disorders cause hyperkinesia—excessive spontaneous movement or abnormal involuntary movement—and others cause hypokinesia—absent or reduced ability to perform purposeful movement.

Abnormal movements may be rhythmical (e.g., essential tremor) or irregular, and may be rapid and jerky (e.g., tics) or slowed and sustained (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, dystonia). In most cases, irregular movement cannot be consciously controlled or suppressed.


Treatment for movement disorders depends on the underlying cause. In most cases, the goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. Treatment may include medication, botulinum toxin injection therapy (BOTOX therapy), and/or surgery.

Medications that may be used include the following:  –

  • Antiepileptics (e.g., carbamazepine [Tegretol], valproate [Depakote])
  • Antiseizure medications (e.g., primidone [Mysoline], gabapentin [Neurontin])
  • Beta-blockers (e.g., propranolol [Inderal])
  • Dopamine agonists (e.g., bromocriptine [Parlodel], pergolide [Permax])
  • Tranquilizers (benzodiazepines such as diazepam [Valium] and clonazepam [Klonopin])

Surgery – Ablative surgery locates, targets, and then destroys (ablates) the clearly defined area of the brain that produces chemical or electrical impulses that cause abnormal movements.

Globus Pallidus  – This type of surgery involves either ablation in the part of the brain called the globus pallidus (called pallidotomy) or ablation of brain tissue in the thalamus (called thalamotomy). A related procedure, cryothalamotomy, uses a supercooled probe that is inserted into the thalamus to freeze and destroy areas that produce tremors.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), a surgically implanted, battery-operated medical device (neurostimulator) is used to deliver electrical stimulation to areas of the brain that control movement. The electrical charge blocks nerve signals that trigger abnormal movement.

Alternative Treatment

Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant that also aids in normal growth and development. When taken daily, vitamin C eliminates free radicals in the body that may be contributing to Movement disorders.

MSM is a naturally occurring chemical that is often used in treating a wide range of conditions. In relation to periodic limb movement disorder, the substance relieves inflammation as well as allergies that may be contributing to the disorder. MSM is also effective for improving circulation that may be related to the progression of the condition.

Glucosamine is a natural substance that contributes to the creation of cartilage. Taking a glucosamine supplement can relieve stress on the joints that may be contributing to the condition. The supplement also appears to work as a limited anti-inflammatory agent.


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