Types of Movement Disorders

NYU Langone doctors are expert at recognizing all types of movement disorders. These neurological conditions cause unwanted movements, such as spasms, jerking, or shaking. Among the most common are Parkinson’s disease, in which the body trembles; and Tourette disorder, in which a person experiences repetitive, involuntary movements called tics. Other types include:

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Essential Tremor

Essential tremor is the most common type of movement disorder. It may be diagnosed at any age and often runs in families. 

A tremor is a rhythmic, involuntary muscle movement that causes shakiness in one or more parts of the body. Tremors may affect the head, voice, tongue, or legs. 

Stress, fatigue, and certain medications, such as stimulants, can make tremors worse. People with essential tremor may notice shaking when they hold their arms up or when they use their hands for activities like eating, drinking, and writing.

Essential tremor often affects people over age 65. It may be caused by a genetic mutation or changes in areas of the brain that control movement. It is not linked to an underlying disease, such as Parkinson’s. 

Symptoms of essential tremor can remain mild or moderate for many years, but in a significant percentage of people the tremor becomes more intense over time.

Other Forms of Tremor

There are other conditions that can cause tremor. Some people experience shaking and trembling as a side effect of certain medications, such as seizure and asthma medications. Tremors can also be a symptom of a neurological disorder like Parkinson’s disease. 

Tremors usually occur in the hands, but they can also affect the arms, legs, trunk, head, face, and voice. Tremors are usually exacerbated by certain postures and activities, such as eating, drinking, and writing. Physical and emotional stress can also exacerbate tremors.


Dystonia causes unintentional muscle contractions, which lead to slow, repetitive, and sometimes painful movements or unusual postures. 

There are several forms of dystonia. Some affect only one muscle, others affect groups of muscles, and some affect muscles in multiple body parts. Some types of dystonia are genetic, but most don’t have a clear cause.

Symptoms vary depending on the form of the condition. They may include an involuntary turning of the neck, rapid and uncontrollable blinking in both eyes, or spasms that cause the eyes to close completely. Dystonia may also cause one foot to cramp, turn, or drag sporadically after running or walking. 

People with dystonia may also have a tremor in the neck, hands, or other body parts or difficulty speaking, such as trouble with articulation and volume.

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