Movement - uncontrollable

Alternative names
Uncontrolled movements; Involuntary body movements; Body movements - uncontrollable

Uncontrollable movements are slow, twisting, continuous, and involuntary movements of the arms, legs, face, neck, or other parts of the body.

This condition is usually a lifelong problem that begins during childhood and is characterized by involuntary neck, face, forearm, wrist, and hand movements. Facial grimaces along with tongue and jaw movements are often associated with involuntary neck movements.

Stress and activity often aggravate this condition, and relaxation and sleep help relieve the problem.

Common Causes

  • Hypoxia at birth  
  • Genetic disorder  
  • Kernicterus (excessive bilirubin in the central nervous system)


  • Drug toxicity  
  • Degenerative disease  
  • Neoplastic lesions  
  • Vascular (blood vessel) lesions

Home Care
Swimming, stretching, walking, and balancing exercises can help coordination and slow down the deterioration process.

Family support is important, and open discussion of feelings is recommended. Self-help groups are available in many communities, and physical therapy should be sought as necessary.

Call your health care provider if

If there are any persistent involuntary movements that are unexplained, you should call your health care provider.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed.

Medical history questions documenting uncontrollable movement in detail may include:

  • Type       o Does there seem to be prolonged muscle contractions causing the abnormal posture?  
  • Location       o Are the arms affected?       o Are the legs affected?  
  • Time pattern       o When did this behavior begin?       o Did it occur suddenly?       o Has it been worsening gradually over months?       o Is it present continuously?       o At what age did this symptom begin?  
  • Aggravating factors       o Is it worse after exercise?       o Is it worse when emotionally stressed?  
  • Relieving factors       o Is it better after sleep?       o What makes it better?  
  • Other       o What other symptoms are also present?

The physical examination may include detailed examination of both the nervous and the muscular systems. It will be performed with emphasis on the neurological exam. Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:

  • CT scan or MRI of the head or affected area  
  • EEG  
  • Lumbar puncture  
  • Urinalysis  
  • Blood studies (such as CBC or blood differential)


Uncontrollable movements may be treated with various medications. This will be decided by the health care provider based on the constellation of symptoms and signs.


You may want to add a diagnosis related to uncontrollable movement to your personal medical record.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Levon Ter-Markosyan, D.M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.