Patient's Guide for Movement Disorders

If you have dystonia Parkinson's disease, essential tremor, or any other type of movement disorder, you may be worried about what the future holds for you and your family. The Cedars-Sinai Movement Disorders Program specializes in patient care, teaching and research. Our team helps you ease your symptoms, slows progression of the disease through all its stages and helps you return to a functional lifestyle the best we can.

Understanding Movement Disorders

What is a movement disorder?

Every body movement, from raising a hand to smiling, involves communication between the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), nerves and muscles. If some of these elements are damaged or malfunction, the result may be a movement disorder. A movement disorder is a neurologic condition that affects the voluntary muscles of the body and can cause a person to lose control of their movements.

Signs and symptoms of movement disorders depends on the specific type of condition you have, but most commonly include things such as involuntary jerking of a muscle or a group of muscles, shaking, spasms, stiffness, or an unsteady or shuffling gait or reduced ability to perform intentional movement. It is important to note, that the severity of movement disorder symptoms can be affected by factors such as anxiety, fatigue, medication, and stress.

How are movement disorders diagnosed?

Some movement disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, are difficult to diagnose in their early stages. Symptoms such as stiffness, balance problems, slow movement and tremors are also sometimes associated with aging and don't necessarily indicate disease. So, it’s important to get a complete diagnostic workup.

This starts with a physical exam and symptom evaluation. Your doctor will also ask questions about your personal and family history, to determine if you’re at higher risk for a specific disorder.

A wide variety of diagnostic services are available from Cedars-Sinai Movement Disorders program, including:

Movement Disorders Conditions & Treatments

Cedars-Sinai Movement Disorders Program offers expertise related to a full range of movement disorder conditions and leverages research to help improve the quality of care and improve treatment options.

Though some movement disorders have no known cure, medication therapy is typically the first line of defense in treating these progressive diseases. Cedars-Sinai has expertise with advanced medication therapies, leveraging a wide variety of medications to customize dosages and balance their side effects. This ultimately helps patients better manage their symptoms. Advanced medication therapies are also being tested through clinical trials and research.

If medication management is no longer effective, Cedars-Sinai does offer alternative treatment options to help manage symptoms.

  • Botulinum Toxin Injections (Botox): Botox injections have been proven to effectively relax excessive muscle contraction in individuals with various movement disorders, by blocking the neurotransmitter (acetylcholine).  This treatment option has minimal discomfort and can last up to 3-4 month. 
  • Minimally Invasive Surgery: Deep brain stimulation (DBS), is a minimally invasive treatment option known to improve the quality of life for people diagnosed with a variety of movement disorders, including Parkinson's disease, essential tremor and dystonia.  It’s not a cure, but in some cases, it can ease symptoms by changing electrical activity in the brain.  Learn more about this treatment option.
  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Working with trained physical rehabilitation specialists, you can help preserve your physical wellbeing and function more effectively in your daily life. Learn more about how physical medicine and rehabilitation at Cedars-Sinai can help you.
    • Physical therapists: Can help improve your walking, balance and strength. They also provide exercises to increase range of motion and decrease pain.
    • Occupational therapists: Provide you with techniques and equipment to manage daily activities, such as getting dressed, cooking meals or driving.
    • Speech therapists: Help you overcome challenges with your language, speech and voice to improve your overall communication using various treatment techniques.

Staying Healthy

staying healthy with a movement disorder

If you’ve been diagnosed with a movement disorder, lifestyle changes can keep symptoms under control and help you live a more functional life.

Here are some helpful tips:
  1. Exercise regularly. Move to the best of your ability and with your doctor’s permission. Try activities that include cardiovascular conditioning, strengthening  and  flexibility, but don’t put  strain  on your muscles or joints.
  2. Get plenty of sleep. If your symptoms or other factors make that difficult, talk to your doctor.
  3. Pay attention to your diet. Ask your doctor or a nutritionist about the best diet for you. That may include a Mediterranean plan featuring fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes  and  nuts, and/or foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish and walnuts.
  4. Get social. Spend time with people you enjoy. If you’re feeling isolated, join a support group or interest-based club, or ask friends and family members to visit you at home.
  5. Learn to meditate. Just 15 minutes a day can help relieve stress. Or do something relaxing every day, such as listening to soothing music or taking a bath.
  6. Learn something new. Keep your brain active by learning a language, reading books and practicing creative hobbies such as drawing, painting or writing.
Social Support and Education

Going through an illness can be a stressful time for everyone involved—for the patient, of course, but also for the caregivers and family members. Cedars-Sinai Medical Network offers periodic topic-specific discussion, open at no cost to all Cedars-Sinai patients, caregivers and family members, as well as to others in the community.

The group offers an interactive environment for all to share their experiences and learn more about a variety of topics. The group meetings feature guest speakers and information on topics such as caregiver support, stress management, coping with chronic illnesses, mental health concerns, community resources, and many more relevant and helpful topics. For more information, call 800-700-6424.


Get Help or Make an Appointment

Call the Movement Disorders Program, or send a message to schedule tests and treatments.

You can also call Cedars-Sinai, 24 hours a day.

Movement Disorders Program

1-800-233-2771

Clinical Trials & Research

Leading-edge care includes constantly searching for a better treatment. Learn about the latest clinical trials and research being conducted at Cedars-Sinai.

Parkinson's Disease Explained

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive illness that affects more than 1 million Americans. Learn more this disease and how Cedars-Sinai can help.