Warning Signs for Movement Disorders

Movement disorders affect more than 40 million people in the United States. A movement disorder can be any condition that affects one’s ability to move, or the manner of movement. They can affect voluntary movement, as well as involuntary—which includes autonomic functions such as breathing. Movement disorders range from mild to severely debilitating, and many have very similar symptoms. It is vitally important to get a correct diagnosis.

Movement Disorders Symptoms

We all experience movement problems at times: the jitters from too much coffee, shaking from nervousness or fear, or even a case of the hiccups. But unusual or persistent symptoms could indicate a movement disorder.

If you experience any unusual symptoms, see your primary care physician for an evaluation.

Early symptoms could include:

  • Tremors
  • Twitching
  • Muscle spasms
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills
  • Changes in gait while walking, clumsiness
  • Loss of balance
  • Muscle weakness

There are many diseases that are considered a movement disorder, and the causes, symptoms and progression vary greatly. Some are not significantly debilitating or life-threatening, and can be well managed, while others are seriously debilitating and progressive throughout life. A general list of common symptoms also includes: 

  • Stiffness or rigidity of limbs and trunk
  • Slowness of movement (bradykinesia)
  • Inability to move (akinesia)
  • Tightening or contraction of muscles (dystonia)
  • Swallowing and speaking difficulties
  • Cognitive and behavioral problems
  • Psychiatric symptoms with progression of severe disorders

For many conditions, the cause is unknown; other disorders have a genetic cause. In some cases, a movement disorder can be the result of injury or a side effect of a medication. If you have concern about any symptom, see your primary care physician for an evaluation.

The Movement Disorders Program at Rhode Island Hospital combines exceptional clinical care with the most advanced medical technologies for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of the full range of movement disorders, the most common of which are essential tremor, restless legs syndrome, and Parkinson’s disease. We take a holistic approach to disease management, employing the expertise of a multidisciplinary team of specialists in neurologyneurosurgeryneuropsychologypsychiatryspeech-language pathologyoccupational therapy and physical therapy.