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Movement Disorders

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Imagine having your arm or leg move when you don't want it to, or your head to suddenly jerk to the left or right. What if you weren't able to move a foot or leg no matter how hard you tried? Movement disorders present unique challenges that can have a devastating impact on a child's daily life. Cook Children's Movement Disorder program offers highly specialized diagnoses and treatment to help improve the quality of life for these children.

Movement disorders can be challenging for children and their families. They can cause coordination problems, limit a child's ability to play, to learn, to concentrate. Whether they are the result of an accident, illness, or genetics, these disorders can also impact a child's self-esteem and pose safety issues for the child. Because many movement disorders are lifelong conditions, an important focus of our team is help each child achieve the maximum amount of independence they are capable of in childhood all the way through adulthood.

What are movement disorders?

Movement disorders is a broad term that covers many types of brain and nervous system conditions. What these conditions all have in common is that they interfere with a person's ability to control movement. Movement disorders can be extremely mild, sometimes going undetected and requiring no treatment. Other types can be very severe. And there are many disorders in between.
Some of the more common disorders we see are:

What causes them?

Movement disorders can be caused by:

  • Genetic disease and disorders
  • Injuries
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infectious diseases
  • Surgeries
  • Endocrine conditions
  • Vascular issues
  • Certain medications that affect the brain and central nervous system

Signs and symptoms

Movement disorders vary in symptoms and the challenges they present Some of the signs and symptoms may include:

  • Tremors
  • Tics, such as uncontrolled eye blinking
  • Uncontrolled jerky movements
  • Balance problems
  • Coordination issues
  • Bursts of anger
  • Fits of laughter
  • Rigid, or stiff muscles
  • Problems walking
  • Head jerking
  • Spontaneous facial expressions without cause, which can include sticking out one's tongue
  • Uncontrollable speech
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing

Testing and diagnosis

Pediatric movement disorders are diagnosed through physical examination of the patient, clinical examination of the child's history and symptoms, neuroimaging and laboratory studies, which may include genetic testing.

Motion Lab

Every person has a different gait, or walking pattern. For those with difficult-to-treat movement disorders, this used to present a difficult challenge in their diagnosis and treatment. But thanks to the latest breakthroughs in motion analysis, the Motion Lab at Cook Children's is changing that. Today, there are amazing new technologies that enable us to determine the best type of treatment for children, teens and young adults with movement disorders.

Using the newest technologies available, the Motion Lab at Cook Children's offers more possibilities in the treatment of movement disorders than ever before. Our specially trained doctors and movement disorder specialists start by analyzing their individual movement challenges.

Our motion analysis technology creates images while the patient is moving. This lets us see how the muscles, nerves and joints are performing. Data on energy expenditure, pressure and movement patterns are also tracked. When we combine this information with the patient's initial diagnosis, we're able to provide a more detailed diagnosis and treatment plan for each individual patient we care for.

Once a treatment plan is determined, patients typically are scheduled for follow-up visits in the Motion Lab to track progress and determine if any adjustments need to be made.

Learn more about our Motion Lab and discover how this amazing program is helping children, teens and young adults make great strides in their recovery.

How are they treated?

Our pediatric movement disorder team works together to control symptoms and maintain our patients' quality of life. Treatment options will depend on your child's diagnosis, and may include:

With one of the most comprehensive movement disorder programs available, the Cook Children's team is ready to deliver advanced medical care for your child.

Deep brain stimulation

There is a treatment that goes deeper. For children with dystonia, and similar conditions such as essential tremor, which can result in difficulty speaking, walking, eating and dressing, Cook Children's offers pediatric deep brain stimulation (DBS), a life-altering treatment. As the only free-standing pediatric hospital in the United States to offer a comprehensive movement disorder program that includes pediatric DBS, we are able to reduce or even eliminate debilitating symptoms that often do not respond to medication, and restore quality of life. For that reason, our DBS program is one of the finest in the nation, drawing patients from thousands of miles away for treatment.

Treatment options vary greatly depending on the cause of your child's movement disorder and may include:

  • Oral medications
  • Intrathecal Baclofen
  • Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Psychological and psychiatric counseling when needed
  • Neuropsychological testing
  • Referral for Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery when indicated

Collaborations and research

Because movement disorders are complex, we use a team approach to treating our patients. This may include biofeedback specialists, physical, speech and occupational therapists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, Child Life specialists and social workers. The team works together to improve movement and restore quality to the patient's daily life.

Active clinical research

  • Activa® Dystonia Therapy
  • Gablofen® (baclofen injection) 3 mg/ml – study to assess the safety of the 3 mg/ml Gablofen® delivered intrathecal administration using the synchromed® II programmable infusion system. (Study identifier NCT01520545)

A description of this or any other clinical trial is available on, as required by United States Law. You can search for a study by using the name or the study identifier to look up information about a study.

The Administration Office (RAO) services all clinical research activities for Cook Children's Health Care System. The RAO is a centralized support structure representing investigators and Cook Children's Health Care System. The Neurosciences department has a full-time dedicated Clinical Research Coordinator should you have any questions regarding

We're here to help.

If your child has been diagnosed, you probably have lots of questions. We can help. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 682-885-2500.