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There are numerous movement disorders, each with their own symptoms, though many symptoms overlap. Consultation with a specialist is often necessary to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Here are some of the most common movement disorders, along with key symptoms.​


Ataxia is a symptom of the disease of the cerebellum, the part of the brain in charge of coordinating motion. Ataxia is often inherited. However, other diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and alcoholism, can also cause ataxia. And brain damage resulting from head injury or stroke can also cause ataxia.


  • Eating and swallowing difficulties
  • Gait and balance problems
  • Heart problems
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech 

These symptoms result from damage or loss of nerve cells in the cerebellum.

Since some ataxia symptoms mimic stroke symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor right away if you experience undiagnosed ataxic symptoms.


Dystonia is a movement disorder involving abnormal muscle contractions or distortions, dystonia may come from a wide variety of causes, including hereditary diseases, trauma and toxins. Long-term uses of some prescribed medications may lead to dystonia. Like ataxia, dystonia may be caused by other diseases.


Symptoms of Dystonia include abnormal contractions or rigidity and distortions of the muscles. Some dystonias are focal (centered on one area of the body). Typically, others are task-specific (like writer’s cramp) or general (impacting the whole body). Scientists do not yet fully understand what causes dystonia symptoms, though when symptoms are caused by an underlying disease, then treatment for that disease may alleviate symptoms.

Essential tremor

Essential tremor is thought to be caused by unusual electrical activity in the part of the brain controlling movement.


Symptoms of essential tremor include shaking, bobbing or twitching of various parts of the upper body — hands, arms and parts of the face and neck. The tongue and voice box may also be affected. Tremors may get worse when you feel strong emotions, or try to focus on a task.

When symptoms start to limit daily activities, a doctor may be able to find treatment options for you.


Myoclonus is a​​​​ twitching or jerking of the muscles. Scientists associate myoclonus with damage to several regions of the brain; problems with transmission of information between different parts of the brain; and problems with neurotransmitters, chemicals that help transmit information between nerve cells.


Symptoms of myoclonus include twitches followed by release of the muscles, such as hiccups or night jerks. More severe myoclonus may involve painful and disabling contractions.

Since myoclonus may be a symptom of serious problems, such as head injury, epilepsy or stroke, it is important to tell your doctor right away about repeated episodes of twitching or jerking.

Tourette syndrome

Tourette syndrome and other tic disorders are neurodevelopmental conditions that begin in childhood. In these movement disorders, children or adolescents begin to experience involuntary movement or vocalizations, ranging from slight to exaggerated. Tic disorders are thought to be hereditary. They affect males more than females.


Symptoms of Tourette syndrome include motor and vocal tics. Motor tics include blinking, grimacing and head bobbing, but may range to twirling and leaping. Vocal tics range from sniffing or grunting to shouting words or phrases out of context.

It is important to reach out to a doctor to ensure patients receive the help and support they need to live with the disorder. Additionally, children may have other developmental disorders along with Tourette syndrome or other tic disorders.

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