Care at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

What are movement disorders?

Movement disorders are a group of neurological (brain and nerve) conditions that affect a person’s ability to control movements. There are many different types of movement disorders.

Neurological expertise at Penn State Health

Movement disorders can be difficult to diagnose accurately. The neurologists at Penn State Neuroscience Institute perform a comprehensive physical and neurological (brain and nerves) examination to diagnose your condition. Our team of experts works together with you to create the most effective treatment plan.

We also have a team of researchers who are working to understand the underlying causes of movement disorders in order to develop new and better treatments.

Diseases we treat

Movement disorders we treat include:

Treatments we offer

Treatment varies by disorder. Medicine can cure some disorders, while other conditions improve when the underlying disease is treated.

Often there is no cure. In this case, the goal of treatment is to improve symptoms and relieve pain.

If medicines fail, our neurosurgeons can also offer surgical options.

Some treatments we offer include:

Groups, Classes & Support

Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other parents and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.

Learn more about support groups offered at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

Research & Clinical Trials

Researchers at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are looking for Parkinson and Control subjects to participate in our Parkinson disease studies.

You may be eligible if you:

  • Are between 45 and 70 years old
  • Have no major medical condition
  • Have no memory or learning impairment

Compensation is available for time and travel related to our studies.

To find out if you are eligible, please email Bethany Snyder,

To learn more about current clinical trials, visit StudyFinder.

Symptoms, Diagnosis & Outlook

Uncontrollable movements include many types of movements that you cannot control. They can affect the arms, legs, face, neck or other parts of the body.

Examples of uncontrollable movements are:

  • Loss of muscle tone (flaccidity)
  • Slow, twisting or continued movements (chorea, athetosis or dystonia)
  • Sudden jerking movements (myoclonus, ballismus)
  • Uncontrollable repetitive movements (asterixis or tremor)

Parkinson disease

Parkinson disease causes certain brain cells to die. These are the cells that help control movement and coordination. The disease leads to shaking (tremors) and trouble walking and moving. Parkinson disease is also called paralysis agitans and shaking palsy.

Symptoms of Parkinson disease

Symptoms may be mild at first. For instance, you may have a mild tremor or a slight feeling that one leg is stiff and dragging. Symptoms may affect one or both sides of the body.

General symptoms may include:

  • Problems with balance and walking
  • Rigid or stiff muscles
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Low blood pressure when you stand up
  • Stooped posture
  • Constipation
  • Sweating and not being able to control your body temperature
  • Slow blinking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Drooling
  • Slowed, quieter speech and monotone voice
  • No expression in your face (like you are wearing a mask)

Movement problems may include:

  • Difficulty starting movement, such as starting to walk or getting out of a chair
  • Difficulty continuing to move
  • Slowed movements
  • Loss of small hand movements (writing may become small and difficult to read)
  • Difficulty eating

Symptoms of shaking (tremors):

  • Usually occur when your limbs are not moving; this is called resting tremor
  • Occur when your arm or leg is held out
  • Go away when you move
  • May be worse when you are tired, excited or stressed
  • Can cause you to rub your finger and thumb together without meaning to (called pill-rolling tremor)
  • Eventually may occur in your head, lips, tongue and feet

Other symptoms may include:

Outlook for Parkinson disease

Medicines can help most people with Parkinson disease. How well medicines relieve symptoms and for how long, can be different in each person.

If not treated, the disorder gets worse until a person is totally disabled. Parkinson disease may lead to a decline in brain function and early death.

Parkinson disease may cause problems such as:

  • Difficulty performing daily activities
  • Difficulty swallowing or eating
  • Disability (differs from person to person)
  • Injuries from falls
  • Pneumonia from breathing in saliva or from choking on food
  • Side effects of medicines

Essential tremors

Essential tremors are a common movement disorder. The condition affects approximately one in five people over the age of 65.

The tremors (shaking) are unintentional, somewhat rhythmic muscle movements. Patients commonly complain of tremors when eating, drinking and writing. This condition is worsened by stress, fatigue, caffeine and some medications.

The disease affects areas of the brain that control movement, but the exact cause of the tremor is unknown.

Many people associate essential tremors with Parkinson disease, but these two conditions differ. Essential tremor patients experience the tremor symptoms while using their hands, while Parkinson disease patients experience the tremor symptoms mainly while their hands are at rest.

Tests and diagnosis of essential tremors

There is no specific test to diagnose essential tremors. Diagnosing is a matter of taking careful medical history, performing neurological (brain and nerve) examinations, and ruling out other conditions.

Neurological exams may include:

  • Tendon reflexes
  • Muscle strength and tone
  • Ability to feel certain sensations
  • Postures and coordination

Laboratory tests are also used to rule out thyroid disease and medication side effects.

Treating essential tremors

There is no sure cure for essential tremors. Patients with mild symptoms may not require any treatment.

In many cases, medications and physical measures can help control the tremors. Your neurologist will work with you to determine the proper medication and dosages. Helpful physical measures might include adding weights to hands and using heavy utensils.

If your symptoms are more severe and medicine doesn’t help control the tremors, surgery may be an option. Deep brain stimulation is a surgical procedure in which a neurosurgeon implants a neurostimulator to stop the tremors.


Although an essential tremor is not life threatening, it becomes harder to perform daily tasks. People with essential tremors often lose the ability to do tasks like driving or going to work. These tremors also become embarrassing for some people. Essential tremors tend to worsen over time. It’s important to seek treatment to improve your quality of life.

We can help

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