Scripps physicians work together to provide exceptional care for patients with movement disorders that can hinder quality of life. This collaboration offers patients the best treatment plans for movement disorders — the most serious of which may not be cured, but can still be managed effectively in many cases.
Learn more about deep brain stimulation as a treatment option for specific movement disorders including Parkinson’s disease.
The Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Center at Scripps Clinic is home to a team that has dedicated their careers to providing patients with the best therapeutic options, as well as access to rehabilitation services available at several locations across San Diego County. Scripps Clinic movement disorder-trained neurologists include specialists who studied directly under the pioneering physicians credited with introducing DBS surgery to the U.S.
At Scripps Clinic, patients being treated for Parkinson’s Disease and other movement disorders have access to a full spectrum of care and services, including:
- Integrative medicine
- Nutritional specialists
- Supplement pharmacists
- Exercise physiologists specialized in Parkinson’s disease rehabilitation
- Five exercise programs specifically designed for Parkinson’s patients.
The Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Center at Scripps Clinic offers “Parkinson’s Boot Camps” twice a year. These daylong seminars include Parkinson’s education and exercise training. Scripps Clinic DBS experts also participate in special hosted picnics in San Diego County that bring together DBS patients and those with Parkinson’s Disease who may be considering DBS as a treatment option.
Scripps Clinic doctors are active in a program through The Scripps Research Institute, which is investigating Parkinson’s disease and using patients’ own stem cells (non-embryonic) as a way to discover potential new treatments.
Neurosurgeons and neurologists at Scripps Clinic also participate in ongoing research with the goal of advancing DBS and making continued improvements in patient outcomes.
Movement disorders are a type of nervous system disorder that typically originate from the body’s neurologic system (which consists of the brain and central nervous system) controlling motor functions. Common types of movement disorders include:
- Ataxia, which is characterized by poor coordination of the arms or legs, due to damage to parts of the body’s nervous system.
- Chorea (involuntary movements) and dyskinesias, which lead to abnormal writhing type of movements of the face, mouth, jaw, neck, trunk, or arms/legs. These may be caused by certain medications or due to underlying brain damage.
- Tourette syndrome, which leads to people having involuntary vocal (throat clearing, coughing, vocalizing words/phrases, sounds) or motor movements (twitch).
- Dystonia, which is a condition associated with the slow and involuntary movement, often in a twisting manner, of large muscle groups and most commonly affects physical control of the head, neck, arms or torso.
- Essential tremor, which is involuntary shaking movements of the arms, and when more severe may affect the head and voice, as a result of problems of the brain with modulating movement that control certain muscles in the body.
- Huntington’s disease, which is a genetic condition that leads to degeneration of nerve cells that can trigger uncontrolled movements (chorea), cognitive issues, and often psychiatric/emotional disturbances.
- Parkinson’s disease, which is caused by the loss of dopamine cells in the brain that help control movement and coordination of the body, leading to involuntary shaking, slowness, stiffness, and difficulty walking and moving.
- Myoclonus, which is characterized by a brief involuntary and uncontrollable jerking of a muscle or muscle group followed by relaxation.
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS), in which patients have a sense of discomfort or restlessness in the legs that is improved with movement.
Scripps neurologists perform comprehensive neurological exams as well as reviews of symptoms and patients’ medical histories to diagnose movement disorders.
The movement disorders specialist will then consider ordering appropriate laboratory tests, imaging exams such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), dopamine transport scans (DAT), or genetic tests to help with the diagnosis of movement disorders. However, this field still relies heavily on the clinical diagnosis, and in some cases no further tests may be needed.
Movement disorders may be managed through one of more of the following:
- Physical, occupational and/or speech therapy
- Surgical intervention including:
- Deep brain stimulation (DBS)
- Pallidotomy, a procedure in which a surgeon makes a scar in part of the brain called the globus pallidus, where the tremor-causing brain activity originates
- Thalamotomy, a procedure in which a surgeon destroys a part of the brain called the thalamus, which controls some involuntary movements
Depending on the type and progression of the movement disorder, different care plans can be recommended by your team in a personalized manner that molds to the patient’s symptoms to achieve the best possible outcome.