Uncontrollable Movements
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Reviewed By:

Bret Mobley, MD, MS

Bret Mobley, MD, MS (Neuropathology)

Dr. Mobley graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School, completing a masters degree in neuroscience between his second and third years of medical school. He trained as a resident in pathology at Stanford University Hospital before joining the faculty of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville Tennessee in 2010. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2018 and to Neuropathology Division Director in 2020.

Shohei Harase, MD

Shohei Harase, MD (Neurology)

Dr. Harase spent his junior and senior high school years in Finland and the U.S. After graduating from the University of Washington (Bachelor of Science, Molecular and Cellular Biology), he worked for Apple Japan Inc. before entering the University of the Ryukyus School of Medicine. He completed his residency at Okinawa Prefectural Chubu Hospital, where he received the Best Resident Award in 2016 and 2017. In 2021, he joined the Department of Cerebrovascular Medicine at the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center, specializing in hyperacute stroke.

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Content updated on Jan 4, 2023

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  • Head shakes uncontrollably (involuntarily)

  • Seizure with arm straightened and face turned to the same side e.g. left or right

  • Uncontrollable movements that make me subconsciously walk or wander around

  • Being conscious while your arms and legs are moving involuntarily

  • Hand starts writing in mid-air if I focus on something else

  • Involuntary slow muscle movements of arms and legs

  • Involuntary movement in one side of the body

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About the Symptom

An involuntary movement is when your body moves in an uncontrolled way. These can include small jerking motions, tremors, or larger limb movements. They usually happen due to problems with the brain or spinal cord.

When to see a doctor

Seek professional care if you experience any of the following symptoms

  • Uncontrollable movements

Possible causes

Generally, Uncontrollable movements can be related to:

  • Sydenham chorea

    Sydenham chorea is a rare neurological disorder characterized by sudden onset abnormal movements that occur after infection with group A streptococcus bacteria. Most people are affected during childhood. Movements are random, continuous, and involuntary, sometimes affecting the entire body. The disease is thought to occur because antibodies against group A streptococcus cross-react with nerve cells in the basal ganglia, a structure in the brain that fine-tunes voluntary movements.

  • Spiny red cell chorea

    Spiny red cell chorea, also known as chorea-acanthocytosis or Levine-Critchley syndrome, is a very rare neurological disorder characterized by high numbers of misshapen, spiny red blood cells (acanthocytes) circulating in the bloodstream, combined with rapid, involuntary, purposeless movements (chorea). Additional symptoms can include include seizures and odd behavior. The disorder is caused by a mutation on the VPS13A gene and runs in families.

  • Paroxysmal exercise-induced dance athetosis

    Paroxysmal exercise-induced dyskinesia (PED) is a movement disorder that is characterized by involuntary, irregular, unpredictable muscle movements triggered by exercise. People with PED appear as if they are dancing, restless, or fidgety. This disorder is caused by a mutation in the SLC2A1 gene.

  • Parkinson disease (PD)
  • Alcohol dependence / delirium tremens
  • Spasticity
  • Restless foot syndrome

Related serious diseases

Sometimes, Uncontrollable movements may be related to these serious diseases:

Doctor's Diagnostic Questions

Your doctor may ask these questions to check for this symptom:

  • Do you have uncontrollable movements in your hands, legs, or face?

  • Do uncontrollable movements cause you to walk or wander subconsciously?

  • Do you have a fever?

  • Do you have headaches or a heavy feeling in your head?

  • Are you feeling nauseous or have you been vomiting?

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Reviewed By:

Bret Mobley, MD, MS

Bret Mobley, MD, MS (Neuropathology)

Dr. Mobley graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School, completing a masters degree in neuroscience between his second and third years of medical school. He trained as a resident in pathology at Stanford University Hospital before joining the faculty of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville Tennessee in 2010. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2018 and to Neuropathology Division Director in 2020.

Shohei Harase, MD

Shohei Harase, MD (Neurology)

Dr. Harase spent his junior and senior high school years in Finland and the U.S. After graduating from the University of Washington (Bachelor of Science, Molecular and Cellular Biology), he worked for Apple Japan Inc. before entering the University of the Ryukyus School of Medicine. He completed his residency at Okinawa Prefectural Chubu Hospital, where he received the Best Resident Award in 2016 and 2017. In 2021, he joined the Department of Cerebrovascular Medicine at the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center, specializing in hyperacute stroke.

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