If you have a movement disorder such as Parkinson’s disease, essential
tremor, or another disorder that causes abnormal body movement, it is
important that you get the proper diagnosis and treatment. Not all movement
disorders can be cured, but help is available to relieve symptoms, slow
the progression of the disorder, and improve your quality of life.
Through our affiliation with the Cedars-Sinai Movement Disorders Program
— one of the best neurology programs in the country — South
Bay residents can get expert care for movement disorders at Torrance Memorial
What are movement disorders?
Movement disorders are neurological conditions that cause increased abnormal
movements, such as muscle spasms or flailing; slowed movement, such as
slurred speech; or impaired movement, such as loss of balance.
Many conditions fall into the category of movement disorders, including
Parkinson’s disease, tremors, restless leg syndrome, and Huntington’s
disease. These conditions all have different causes — some of them
unknown — but they are grouped together because they have a neurological
mechanism behind them and their symptoms always include abnormal movement.
Types of Movement Disorders
Movement disorders can range from mild to severe and include:
Akathisia is a condition that makes you feel an uncontrollable urge to
move. People often relieve the urge by swinging their legs, rocking back
and forth, or pacing. Akathisia is a side-effect of antipsychotic medication.
“Ataxia” literally means lack of coordination. Patients with
this condition lose control of their arms and legs and may be unable to
balance, walk, or speak clearly. Ataxia can be caused by other medical
conditions, including multiple sclerosis, tumors, stroke, and nerve damage.
Ataxia can also be inherited genetically.
Chorea refers to involuntary movements, such as flailing and muscle contractions,
that affect all different parts of the body.
Chorea can cause someone to develop an abnormal gait and have trouble talking
Chorea is a symptom of Huntington’s disease, a genetic condition
that is progressive, degenerative, and impacts other things besides movements,
such as cognition and mood.
Huntington's disease is not the only cause of chorea. It can also be
caused by other conditions that are not inherited, such as rheumatic fever
and certain autoimmune diseases.
Dystonia is a disorder that causes involuntary muscle contraction, which
results either in repetitive, involuntary movements or getting stuck in
certain positions. Dystonia can affect only one part of your body, one
side of your body, or your entire body.
Dystonia can be caused by stroke, in which case it will usually just affect
one side of your body. But dystonia can affect people who have never had
strokes, and in these cases, the causes are still unknown.
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative nervous system disorder characterized
by disordered movements, such as tremors, rigid muscles, and loss of automatic
movements. These symptoms are caused by a lack of a neurotransmitter called dopamine.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s, but treatment is available to slow
the progression of the disease and reduce symptoms.
Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)
PSP is an illness that has many of the same symptoms as Parkinson’s
disease (which is also a movement disorder), but is a distinct condition.
PSP is caused by damage to certain cells in the brain stem, but scientists
still do not know how that damage occurs.
PSP impairs balance and can impair vision and focus by affecting the muscles
around your eyes. Other symptoms include dementia, unusual emotional outbursts,
depression, and tremors in the hands.
Tourette syndrome causes different “tics,” which could be movements
or vocalizations that you feel compelled to make. If you have Tourette
syndrome, you may be able to suppress your tics temporarily, but not for
extended periods of time. Tourette syndrome is believed to be genetic,
though a specific gene has not been identified.
A tremor could be a symptom of a condition previously mentioned, or it
could exist on its own. A condition called essential tremor (ET) causes
a noticeable tremor in a certain part of the body and is believed to be
For a complete list of movement disorder conditions we treat, visit the
Treatment for a movement disorder will depend on the type of movement disorder
you have. Many movement disorders are not curable, but their symptoms
can be reduced, and you can receive support to help you live with the
Cedars-Sinai has a multidisciplinary team, which includes neurologists
that specialize in movement disorders, physical therapists, occupational
therapists, psychiatrists, and social workers.
In addition to medical interventions that reduce symptoms, our specialists
also offer physical therapies that improve motor function, and psychotherapies
focused on providing the coping skills required to navigate life with
a movement disorder.
Treatments offered by the Cedars-Sinai team include:
- Advanced medication therapy
- Botulinum toxin injections
Deep brain stimulation
- Focused ultrasound
- MRI-guided laser ablation
- Radiofrequency ablation
Physical medicine and rehabilitation, which may include:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Behavioral therapy
- Speech therapy