Complex Movement Disorders

Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare offers comprehensive evaluations, treatments and services for people who have complex movement disorders. As a regional leader in neurology, neurosurgery and rehabilitation medicine, and with national and international recognition in pediatric orthopedics, we offer an exceptional level of care.

Because movement disorders can have several causes, our Complex Movement Disorder Clinic includes an interdisciplinary team of specialists who work together to provide expert diagnoses and customized treatment plans. Our goal is to help patients achieve their highest possible levels of independence, comfort and happiness in a family-centered environment.

Why Choose Gillette?

  • Gillette is a regional leader in pediatric neurology and neurosurgery.
  • Our experts in pediatric neurology, pediatric rehabilitation medicine, orthopedics, pediatric neurosurgery, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy collaborate to offer a wide range of treatments—customized to meet each patient’s needs.
  • We offer a Complex Movement Disorders Clinic—a team of specialists for people who have these types of conditions.
  • Our hospital features state-of-the-art technology and facilities designed for your needs.
  • Our goal is to help patients who have complex movement disorders improve function and enhance their quality of life.

Complex Movement Disorders Definition

Complex movement disorders is a term used to describe any combination of abnormal movements that interfere with a person’s desired movements. People who have complex movement disorders might experience too much, or too little movement, or they might have coordination problems. Movement disorders might be associated with cerebral palsy, brain injuries, side effects from medication or other disorders and conditions.

Complex Movement Disorders Types and Causes

There are several types of complex movement disorders, but most are categorized as hyperkinetic (too much movement) or hypokinetic (too little movement). Hyperkinetic movement disorders occur more frequently in children than in adults and include unusual or unwanted movements. The most common types of hyperkinetic disorders in children are tics/Tourette’s syndrome and stereotypies. Hypokinetic movement disorders are rare in children.

Specialists at Gillette’s Complex Movement Disorders Clinic diagnose and treat a variety of movement disorders, but typically focus on the following hyperkinetic disorders.


People who have dystonia have muscles that tighten involuntarily, causing uncontrollable, repetitive, stiff, twisting or exaggerated motions. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and might interfere with daily activities, depending on which areas of the body are affected.

Dystonia is often caused by:

  • Brain damage from low oxygen levels in the blood stream at birth, which causes cerebral palsy
  • Genetics—some forms of dystonia are inherited
  • Other disorders or conditions—such as severe jaundice after birth, infections or reactions to certain medications

Tardive Syndromes

Tardive syndromes are caused by exposure to certain antipsychotic medications (such as haloperidol). Because Tardive syndromes are caused by medication, the symptoms usually appear after a patient has been taking the medication for some time.

The most common symptoms of this type of movement disorder are slow, repetitive, involuntary movements of the mouth and tongue. Tardive syndromes can also range from twisting movements of the entire body to choreatic (quick dance-like) movements. Often, people who have this condition also experience a sense of restlessness.


The term “chorea” comes from the Greek word meaning “to dance.” This disorder causes brief, irregular and involuntary movements that appear to flow from one muscle to the next in different parts of the body.

The form of chorea seen most often in children is called Sydenham’s chorea. It is extremely rare and occurs after streptococcal infections. Other rare causes of chorea in children include side effects from medication or toxins, stroke, and genetic metabolic conditions.

Complex Movement Disorders Symptoms and Effects

Because the symptoms and effects of complex movement disorders vary depending on the type of disorder, the impact on quality of life differs from person to person.

Some common symptoms and effects of complex movement disorders include:

  • Difficulty walking or running
  • Depression, anxiety and social isolation
  • Sleep disorders
  • Speech and language difficulties
  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing or eating
  • Difficulty writing

Complex Movement Disorders Risk Factors

Many factors might increase a child’s risk for developing a complex movement disorder. Some of the most common include:

  • Genetic mutations and heredity
  • Birth complications
  • Brain injury
  • Side effects from medication
  • Infection, trauma, tumors or stroke
  • Other medical conditions and disorders

Complex Movement Disorders Diagnosis and Tests

Complex movement disorders can be difficult to diagnose and treat. That’s why Gillette established a Complex Movement Disorders Clinic which includes specialists from neurology, rehabilitation medicine, neurosurgery and orthopedics. Our rehabilitation therapists are also part of the team.

In most cases, specialists can diagnose disorders using a visual examination of movements. Because some complex movement disorders are caused by an underlying health condition or injury, however, additional testing and evaluation may be done to ensure that other medical conditions don’t need to be addressed.

Some common tests for diagnosing complex movement disorders include:

Complex Movement Disorders Treatments

At Gillette, each patient’s care path is unique. A patient who has a complex movement disorder often sees a wide range of specialists who work together to provide a comprehensive treatment plan that supports the patient’s goals. Some of the most common treatments and therapies associated with complex movement disorders are:

Our Complex Movement Disorders Services

The additional Gillette specialties and services most often associated with complex movement disorders include:

For more information about the services we provide at Gillette, search Conditions and Care.

Why Gillette?

Because all children deserve a lifetime of amazing health care.

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