Movement Disorders

Movement Disorders refer to a group of conditions affecting a person’s ability to control and coordinate body movements. One prominent example within this category is Huntington’s Disease (HD).

The causes of Movement Disorders can vary, and they may be influenced by genetic factors, environmental factors, or a combination of both. In the case of Huntington’s Disease, it is a genetic disorder caused by a mutation in the HTT gene.

1. Huntington’s Disease (HD)

  • Characteristics: Progressive neurodegenerative disorder affecting movement, cognition, and psychiatric function.
  • Genetic Basis: Caused by a mutation in the HTT gene, leading to the production of a faulty form of the huntingtin protein.
  • Progression: Symptoms worsen over time, and the age of onset varies. There is currently no cure for HD.

2. Dystonia

Dystonia is a movement disorder characterized by sustained muscle contractions, resulting in repetitive, twisting movements or abnormal postures.

  • Symptoms: Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may affect specific body parts or the entire body.
  • Causes: Primary dystonia is often of unknown cause, while secondary dystonia can result from other medical conditions or certain medications.
  • Management: Treatment may involve medications, botulinum toxin injections to reduce muscle contractions, and physical therapy to improve muscle control.

3. Essential Tremor

Essential Tremor is a neurological disorder that causes involuntary rhythmic shaking, typically in the hands and sometimes in the head, voice, or other body parts.

  • Symptoms: Tremors are typically seen during voluntary movements and can worsen with stress or fatigue.
  • Causes: The exact cause is unknown, but there may be a genetic component. It is not associated with other neurological diseases.
  • Management: Medications, lifestyle modifications, and, in severe cases, surgical interventions like deep brain stimulation can be considered.

4. Ataxia

Ataxia refers to a lack of coordination and balance, affecting movements such as walking, speaking, and fine motor skills.

  • Symptoms: Unsteady gait, difficulties with fine motor tasks, and slurred speech are common symptoms.
  • Causes: Ataxia can be inherited (genetic) or acquired due to conditions such as head injury, stroke, or multiple sclerosis.
  • Management: Treatment focuses on managing the underlying cause, along with physical and occupational therapy to improve coordination.


Friedreich’s Ataxia: An inherited form of ataxia that affects coordination, balance, and movement. It often begins in childhood or adolescence.

Cerebellar Ataxia: Can result from various causes, including stroke, multiple sclerosis, or tumors affecting the cerebellum.

5. Multi-System Atrophy (MSA)

MSA is a rare neurodegenerative disorder that affects multiple systems in the body, including the nervous system. It is characterized by a combination of parkinsonian, autonomic, and cerebellar symptoms.

Motor Symptoms:

  • Parkinsonian Features: MSA can present with parkinsonian symptoms, such as tremors, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), and muscle rigidity.
  • Cerebellar Dysfunction: Ataxia, uncoordinated movements, and problems with balance are common.

Autonomic Dysfunction:

  • MSA often involves autonomic nervous system dysfunction, leading to issues such as orthostatic hypotension, urinary incontinence, and impaired regulation of various bodily functions.
  • Subtypes: MSA is classified into two main subtypes: MSA with predominant parkinsonism (MSA-P) and MSA with predominant cerebellar ataxia (MSA-C).

6. Parkinsonisms

Parkinsonisms refer to a group of conditions that share symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease but may have different underlying causes.

Atypical Parkinsonian Disorders:

  • Conditions such as MSA, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), and Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD) fall under atypical parkinsonian disorders.
  • Distinguishing Features: These disorders may have additional features that distinguish them from typical Parkinson’s disease, and they often progress more rapidly.

Secondary Parkinsonism

  • Some medical conditions, medications, or exposure to toxins can cause secondary parkinsonism. These cases involve parkinsonian symptoms but are not primarily neurodegenerative.

Understanding the distinctions between Parkinson’s disease, atypical parkinsonian disorders like MSA, and secondary parkinsonism is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate management. Each condition may require a tailored approach to treatment and care.

Symptoms of Movement Disorders depend on the specific condition but may include:

  • Involuntary movements
  • Tremors
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Difficulty initiating or controlling movements
  • Changes in posture and gait

How Can We Help?

Physiotherapy and Exercise Physiology

Physiotherapy is crucial for managing Movement Disorders by addressing physical challenges and promoting mobility. Therapists design exercises to improve muscle strength, flexibility, and coordination. They may also provide strategies to enhance balance and prevent falls.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy focuses on improving daily living skills and enhancing independence. Occupational therapists work on adapting the environment, recommending assistive devices, and developing strategies to facilitate activities of daily living.

Speech Pathology

Speech pathology is essential for addressing communication and swallowing difficulties often associated with Movement Disorders. Speech pathologists help improve speech and language skills. They may also address issues related to swallowing through specialised techniques and exercises.

Other Conditions