Movement - uncoordinatedLack of coordination; Loss of coordination; Coordination impairment; Ataxia; Clumsiness; Uncoordinated movement
Uncoordinated movement is due to a muscle control problem that causes an inability to coordinate movements. It leads to a jerky, unsteady, to-and-fro motion of the middle of the body (trunk) and an unsteady gait (walking style). It can also affect the limbs.
Walking abnormalities are unusual and uncontrollable walking patterns. They are usually due to diseases or injuries to the legs, feet, brain, spinal...
The medical name of this condition is ataxia.
Smooth graceful movement requires a balance between different muscle groups. A part of the brain called the cerebellum manages this balance.
Diseases that damage the cerebellum, spinal cord, or peripheral nerves can interfere with normal muscle movement. The result is large, jerky, uncoordinated movements.
Peripheral means "away from the center. " It refers to areas away from the center of the body or a body part. For example, the hands are peripheral ...
Brain injuries or diseases that can cause uncoordinated movements include:
- Brain injury or head trauma
- Chickenpox or certain other brain infections (encephalitis)
Chickenpox is a viral infection in which a person develops very itchy blisters all over the body. It was more common in the past. The illness is ra...
- Conditions that are passed through families (such as congenital cerebellar ataxia, Friedreich ataxia, ataxia - telangiectasia, or Wilson disease)
Friedreich ataxia is a rare disease passed down through families (inherited). It affects the muscles and heart.
Ataxia - telangiectasia
Ataxia-telangiectasia is a rare childhood disease. It affects the brain and other parts of the body. Ataxia refers to uncoordinated movements, such ...
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA)
A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain stops. A stroke is sometimes called a "brain attack. " If blood flow is cut off for longer th...
Poisoning or toxic effects caused by:
- Certain medicines
- Heavy metals such as mercury, thallium, and lead
- Solvents such as toluene or carbon tetrachloride
Other causes include:
- Certain cancers, in which uncoordinated movement symptoms may appear months or years before the cancer is diagnosed (called paraneoplastic syndrome)
- Problems with the nerves in the legs (neuropathy)
- Spine injury or disease causing damage to the spinal cord (such as compression fractures of the spine)
A home safety evaluation by a physical therapist may be helpful.
Take measures to make it easier and safer to move around at home. For example, get rid of clutter, leave wide walkways, and remove throw rugs or other objects that might cause slipping or falling.
People with this condition should be encouraged to take part in normal activities. Family members need to be patient with a person who has poor coordination. Take time to show the person ways to do tasks more easily. Take advantage of the person's strengths while avoiding his or her weaknesses.
Ask the health care provider whether walking aids, such as a cane or walker, would be helpful.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if:
- A person has unexplained problems with coordination
- Lack of coordination lasts longer than a few minutes
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
In an emergency, you will first be stabilized so that symptoms do not get worse.
The provider will perform a physical exam, which may include:
- A detailed examination of the nervous system and muscles, paying careful attention to walking, balance, and coordination of pointing with fingers and toes.
- Asking you to stand up with your feet together and the eyes closed. This is called the Romberg test. If you lose your balance, this is a sign that your sense of position has been lost. In this case, the test is considered positive.
Medical history questions may include:
- When did the symptoms begin?
- Does the uncoordinated movement happen all the time or does it come and go?
- Is it getting worse?
- What medicines do you take?
- Do you drink alcohol?
- Do you use recreational drugs?
- Have you been exposed to something that may have caused poisoning?
- What other symptoms do you have? For example: weakness or paralysis, numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation, confusion or disorientation, seizures.
Muscle function loss is when a muscle does not work or move normally. The medical term for complete loss of muscle function is paralysis.
Numbness and tingling are abnormal sensations that can occur anywhere in your body, but they are often felt in your fingers, hands, feet, arms, or le...
Confusion is the inability to think as clearly or quickly as you normally do. You may feel disoriented and have difficulty paying attention, remembe...
Tests that may be ordered include:
- Antibody testing to check for paraneoplastic syndromes
- Blood tests (such as a CBC or blood differential)
A complete blood count (CBC) test measures the following:The number of red blood cells (RBC count)The number of white blood cells (WBC count)The tota...
- CT scan of the head
- Genetic testing
- MRI of the head
You may need to be referred to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment. If a specific problem is causing the ataxia, the problem will be treated. For example, if a medicine is causing coordination problems, the medicine may be changed or stopped. Other causes may not be treatable. The provider can tell you more.
Lang AE. Other movement disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 410.
Subramony SH, Xia G. Disorders of the cerebellum, including the degenerative ataxias. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 97.
Muscular atrophy - illustration
Muscular atrophy is the decrease in size and wasting of muscle tissue. Muscles that lose their nerve supply can atrophy and simply waste away.
Review Date: 2/23/2017
Reviewed By: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.