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Movement - uncoordinated

Lack 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.

The medical name of this condition is ataxia.

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Muscular atrophy

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Considerations

Smooth graceful movement requires a balance between different muscle groups. A part of the brain called the cerebellum manages this balance.

Ataxia can severely affect daily living activities.

Causes

Diseases that damage the cerebellum, spinal cord, or peripheral nerves can interfere with normal muscle movement. The result is large, jerky, uncoordinated movements.

Brain injuries or diseases that can cause uncoordinated movements include:

Poisoning or toxic effects caused by:

Other causes include:

Home Care

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 their weaknesses.

Ask the health care provider whether walking aids, such as a cane or walker, would be helpful.

People with ataxia are prone to falls. Talk with the provider about measures to prevent falls.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

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:

Medical history questions may include:

Tests that may be ordered include:

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.

Related Information

Peripheral
Walking abnormalities
Chickenpox
Encephalitis
Head injury - first aid
Central nervous system
Toxins

References

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.

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Review Date: 3/13/2019  

Reviewed By: Alireza Minagar, MD, MBA, Professor, Department of Neurology, LSU Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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