Over 40 million Americans – 1 in every 7- suffer with a movement disorder.  That’s more than double the number of people who suffer with diabetes, which, is in itself a staggering number.  A person who has a movement disorder will typically see on average 15 different doctors, over the course of 5 years before one of them actually recognizes and properly identifies the problem.  To those individuals suffering with movement disorders this is a very real problem and as such those suffering are very much underserved.  Making matters worse, movement disorders, once recognized, are typically treated by drugs which were not necessarily developed for the treatment of any particular movement disorders.  And if this is not bad enough, most of these drugs are actually known to cause movement disorders, such as tremors.  Surprisingly, one can develop these tremor side affects, (called tardive dyskinesias), from a single dose of prescribed medication.  Most people think that you have to take a lot of a drug before it will inflict side affects, though in actuality, this is clearly not the case.   So is there a better approach to this?  Well, actually in a word, yes.  As a functional neurologist, I routinely spend my day seeing patients with movement disorders, most of whom have been referred to me to ascertain what is going on with them what is causing them to move the way they do.  Many of these movement disorders can actually be treated better without drugs using neurologic rehabilitation, whereby we restructure the brains neurologic connections using simple exercises and activities, affording the brain appropriate integration of the many neuronal pools which all have to work synergistically together at all times.  The trick to this is that the diagnosis needs to be extraordinarily precise, as no two patients, even with the same movement parameters, are typically going to be managed the same. Because of the simplicity of this approach as well as the lack of harmful side affects, there is little sense in utilizing alternative drug therapies in favor of appropriate neurologic rehabilitation.  Another problem with the drug approach lies in the fact that since the drugs are not treating anything at all and at best hoping to ameliorate some symptoms, the underlying cause continues to worsen.  Often times as this goes on for a long time, the movement disorder becomes difficult or even impossible to entirely correct due to the vast reorganizational changes that have now occurred in the brains many interconnections.  This is particularly frustrating for me as a clinician as well as for a patient suffering with a movement disorder as had they presented years earlier the problem would have been much easier to treat successfully.

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6 Responses

  1. Hello, can you tell me what you know of cervical dystonia. Have you treated anyone with this? My husband was diagnosed 7 years ago, and has only had some relief with an orthotic. I really question the nuero Dr. diagnosis that it is “brain based with no cure”.

  2. Hello Dr. Scopelliti,
    Is it possible to be diagnosed with Grave’s Disease and have a movement disorder? I am 41 years old. Last week I fell 5 times due to vertigo. I felt like someone had tied a rope around my feet and someone was forcing me to do somersaults mid air. I also have been having more headaches( like a vise around my eyes ,nose twitches,top of my left ear has painful spasms, left jaw pain,tip of tongue going numb). While I’m driving, I have double vision or everything looks too sharp and super real. Sometimes it feels like the base of my head feels fluid like. If I’m at the bookstore I can’t browse for books too long without feeling like I’m drunk! But, the worse feeling I have are tiny blackouts. I spoke with my father today about these things. He stated that he has experienced that since he was 11. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I can remember him having a harder and harder time writing without having to hold his hand/arm steady. I have an appointment. with my endocrinologist 10/7/11.
    Can’t wait 🙁

    • Good boring Stephanie. I am apparently having problems with my ISP as I am just now seeing this comment.

      It does not sound as though you are describing a movement disorder, however, I am only basing this on what little information you have presented to me in your comment. If you would like to discuss this more in depth please email me off list at drs@dcneuro.net.



  3. can you please describe a movement disorder

    • Hi Karen, thanks for posting to my blog. A movement disorder is quite simply exactly as it sounds, uncontrolled movement. Disorders such as Dystonia, Parkinson’s, Chorea, tremors, etc., all fall into the category of movement disorders. Even disorders such as vertigo and dysequilibrium are movement disorders as they create an aberrancy of normal movement.

      I hope this helps.

      Dr. S.

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