What causes involuntary movements and how to treat them?

Symptom Database

Involuntary movements, also known as uncontrollable movements, refer to the spontaneous and unintentional actions of the body or its parts. These movements can occur in various forms, such as involuntary body movements, involuntary muscle movements, and involuntary facial movements. While they can be harmless and temporary, they can also be indicative of underlying health conditions that require attention and treatment. In this article, we will explore the causes of involuntary movements and discuss potential treatment options.

Causes of Involuntary Movements

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of involuntary movements. Understanding these causes is crucial in determining the appropriate course of action for treatment. Some common causes include:

  • Neurological Disorders: Certain neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Tourette syndrome, can lead to involuntary movements. These disorders affect the brain’s ability to control movement, resulting in uncontrollable actions.
  • Medication Side Effects: Some medications, particularly those used to treat psychiatric disorders, may have side effects that cause involuntary movements. These movements are often referred to as drug-induced dyskinesia.
  • Genetic Factors: Involuntary movements can also be hereditary, meaning they are passed down through generations. Genetic mutations can disrupt the normal functioning of the nervous system, leading to involuntary muscle movements.
  • Stress and Anxiety: Emotional stress and anxiety can manifest physically, causing involuntary movements. These movements are often temporary and subside once the underlying stressor is addressed.
  • Brain Injury: Traumatic brain injuries or damage to specific areas of the brain can result in involuntary movements. The severity and location of the injury will determine the type and extent of the movements.

Treatment Options for Involuntary Movements

The treatment of involuntary movements depends on the underlying cause and the impact they have on an individual’s daily life. Here are some potential treatment options:


In cases where involuntary movements are caused by neurological disorders, medication may be prescribed to help manage symptoms. For example, levodopa is commonly used to alleviate the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. However, it is important to note that medication may not be effective for all individuals, and the dosage and type of medication should be determined by a healthcare professional.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be beneficial in improving muscle control and reducing the severity of involuntary movements. Therapists can develop personalized exercise programs that target specific muscle groups, helping individuals regain control and coordination.

Deep Brain Stimulation

In some cases, deep brain stimulation (DBS) may be recommended. This surgical procedure involves implanting electrodes into specific areas of the brain to regulate abnormal electrical signals that cause involuntary movements. DBS has shown promising results in managing symptoms of conditions like Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor.

Behavioral Therapy

For individuals whose involuntary movements are triggered or worsened by stress or anxiety, behavioral therapy techniques can be helpful. Therapists can teach relaxation techniques, stress management strategies, and coping mechanisms to reduce the frequency and intensity of the movements.

Lifestyle Modifications

Simple lifestyle changes can also contribute to managing involuntary movements. These may include:

  • Getting enough sleep: Fatigue can exacerbate involuntary movements, so ensuring an adequate amount of sleep is essential.
  • Reducing stress: Engaging in stress-reducing activities, such as meditation, yoga, or hobbies, can help minimize the impact of stress on involuntary movements.
  • Avoiding triggers: Identifying and avoiding triggers that worsen the movements can significantly improve the quality of life.
  • Supportive devices: Assistive devices, such as weighted utensils or braces, can aid in controlling involuntary movements during daily activities.


Involuntary movements can be disruptive and distressing, but with proper understanding and treatment, individuals can find relief and improve their quality of life. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial in determining the most effective treatment approach. Whether it be medication, physical therapy, deep brain stimulation, behavioral therapy, or lifestyle modifications, there are options available to manage and reduce the impact of involuntary movements. If you or someone you know is experiencing these movements, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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