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Therapy Options for Movement Disorders

Managing Movement Disorder Symptoms

Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and dystonia can take a devastating emotional and economic toll on patients and their families. As the symptoms of these progressive diseases become harder to manage, many patients like you may be looking for ways to take back control.

Because there is no cure for most movement disorders, treatment aims to manage symptoms and relieve pain. Therapeutic options vary depending on the condition. They include:

  • Medication
  • Botulinum toxin injection therapy (BOTOX therapy)
  • Implantable drug pumps
  • Occupational or physical therapy
  • Surgical ablation
  • Deep brain stimulation

Medication

As a first line of treatment, medications are often used to try to balance chemical signals in the brain.

For example, when balance is achieved, it provides relief of the motor symptoms, the pain and/or the depression that often accompanies dystonia.1 However, in some cases, medication treatments are either ineffective or result in intolerable side effects and must be discontinued.

Botulinum toxin injection therapy

Injections of botulinum toxin may also be used to target localized areas of the body to control involuntary movements and muscle contractions. As symptoms progress over time, injections may not be sufficient to control motor symptoms.

While medications and injections can help, sometimes they become less effective than they once were, or the side effects outweigh their benefit. The same can be true for other therapeutic options, including implantable drug pumps and occupational or physical therapy.

Surgical ablation

Ablation is a type of surgery where a surgeon uses heat to destroy (ablate) an area of the brain affected by a movement disorder. The goal is to destroy tissue that produces abnormal chemical or electrical impulses that result in tremors and other symptoms. This type of surgery is nonreversible.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS)

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a therapeutic treatment that blocks electrical signals from targeted areas in the brain that cause involuntary movements. DBS consists of an implanted device that looks and works much like a pacemaker, except instead of providing mild pulses of current to your heart, it targets focused areas of the brain. DBS is a reversible therapy. St. Jude Medical offers a deep brain stimulation device.

Please note that this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice from your physician or other health care providers. You should always talk with your physician about symptoms you are experiencing and what treatment is right for you. 

REFERENCES

1. Okun, M. (2009). The Dystonia Patient: A Guide to Practical Management. New York: Demos Medical Publishing.