Sometimes, we might randomly experience unnatural sensations, like an arm twitch or feeling unsteady on a flight of stairs. Movement, whether intended or not, is a result of the brain communicating with the body. When an unplanned movement happens, it is considered an involuntary movement.
Movement Disorders: Explained
Involuntary movement disorders occur as a result of damage done to the central nervous system from injury or illness. Movement disorders encompass a variety of medical conditions distinguished by repetitive and uncontrollable motions or twitches in specific muscle areas.
Seniors often experience movement disorders, requiring medical assistance and treatment. While these disorders can be categorized and studied, it is important to note that symptoms will range from person to person.
Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder, which means it develops gradually over time. The cause of Parkinson’s Disease is still relatively uncertain, which makes it difficult to find a cure. However, medical treatment and surgery are available options.
Symptoms differ between those affected, but may include:
- Issues with balance or steadiness
- Stiffness of limbs
- Slow movements
Oftentimes, Parkinson’s also affects additional non-motor aspects of a person’s wellbeing, such as their mental health, sleep, and digestion.
Dystonia is a movement disorder that causes uncontrollable muscle spasms. The part of the central nervous system that impacts this disorder is called the basal ganglia. As a result of the muscle spasms, people with dystonia twist unintentionally, causing repetitive movements, postures, or gestures.
Treatment for dystonia may include any combination of medication, surgery, and in some cases botox.
Ataxia is a neurological condition that diminishes control of muscles, balance and/or coordination. This movement disorder is caused by damage to the cerebellum. Symptoms include stumbling, loss of balance, back-and-forth eye movements, or difficulty controlling muscles.
Walkers or canes are designed to lessen stumbling and coordination-loss, as well as physical therapy.
Care Tips for Seniors with Movement Disorders
Involuntary movement disorders are extremely common among people over the age of 60. Parkinson’s is the most common diagnosis among those affected. Treatment and care for involuntary movement disorders encompasses a variety of strategies and activities
Physical therapy is different from exercise because it includes guidance from a medical professional, who will be able to assist the patient in their movements; working to improve strength and mobility. Examples include:
- Amplitude Therapy – Involves making over exaggerated, large scale movements in order to re-teach the muscles their mobility and strength. Making grand gestures helps slow down the restrictive symptoms of many movement disorders. This form of physical therapy is especially common in patients with Parkinson’s.
- Reciprocal Pattern -Training includes repeated side-to-side or left-to-right movements such as making circles with the arms while taking a walk, or riding a stationary bike. The goal of reciprocal pattern training is to reinforce the fact that arm and leg exercises go hand in hand.
- Occupational Therapy – helps patients learn essential skills and tools that will help them deal with their movement disorder. Therapists in this field help patients manage their everyday lives including:
- How to use a walker or cane
- Create plans to avoid falling
- Help getting out of bed, the shower, etc.
- Making everyday activities easier, such as cooking and cleaning
Research proves that making healthy changes to a person’s diet is an exceptional way to treat involuntary movement disorders. Eating healthy foods helps to maintain strength in muscles in order to control the medical condition and slow down its progression.
A diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and sufficient water intake will improve energy levels and digestion.
Daily exercise is guaranteed to help strength, balance, and coordination. According to doctors at Johns Hopkins, exercise can also slow the progression of movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s.
Common exercises to manage movement disorders include:
- Balance Training: designed to reconnect the brain with the body
- Stretching and Flexibility: necessary to loosen up tight and rigid muscles, as well as to improve balance and coordination
- Strength Training: utilize light weights or resistance bands to build muscle strength
One added bonus to stretching and strength training is posture improvement. Poor posture is common among elderly with movement disorders.
These simple, yet effective exercises can be done at home under the supervision of a caregiver.
Speech and Language Therapy
In many cases, involuntary movement disorders can impact a person’s speech. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, 89 percent of those affected will endure symptoms that impact their speech and voice.
A speech therapist has the expertise and tools to assist patients in amplifying their voice, making it more clear, and improving breathing while speaking. Amplitude physical therapy sometimes targets speech in this way.
ElderCare 4 Families
ElderCare takes pride in delivering specialized care based on each individual client’s needs. If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with an involuntary movement disorder, consult with one of our professionals to determine the best treatments and plan of action. They will put together a personalized care plan to ensure all those needs are met. Our caregivers have experience working with a variety of clients needing a wide range of care. Contact us today to start your Elder Care journey.