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 Medical Center.

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

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

“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

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 or swallowing.

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

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

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

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.

Tremors

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 inherited.

For a complete list of movement disorder conditions we treat, visit the Cedars-Sinai website.

Treatment

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 condition.

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
  • Radiosurgery
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation, which may include:
    • Physical therapy
    • Occupational therapy
    • Behavioral therapy
    • Speech therapy