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.
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.
Brain injuries or diseases that can cause uncoordinated movements include:
Poisoning or toxic effects caused by:
Other causes include:
A home safety evaluation by a physical therapist may be helpful.
Use safety measures around the home to make it easier to get around. 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.
As the health care provider whether walking aids, such as a cane or walker, would be helpful.
Call your health care provider if:
In an emergency, the patient will first be stabilized so that symptoms do not get worse.
The health care 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 doctor can tell you more.
Lack of coordination; Loss of coordination; Coordination impairment; Ataxia; Clumsiness; Uncoordinated movement
Griggs RC, Jozefowicz RF, Aminoff MJ. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 403.
Lang AE. Other movement disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 417.
Subramony SH. Ataxic disorders and cerebellar disorders. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley’s Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 22.
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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