Raising your hand or reaching forward to open a door — these are movements that you do on purpose. However, some people move their bodies in a way that doesn’t have a purpose. These are known as aimless movements. Another name for aimless movements is purposeless movements.
Aimless movements can be voluntary or involuntary. Many brain-related conditions can cause aimless movements.
Aimless movements can have many physical signs. Most of these signs depend on the underlying medical cause.
Here are some examples of the different types of aimless movements:
- athetosis, or writhing movements, most often in the arms and hands
- ballism, or flinging or flailing movements, usually of the arms
- chorea, which are involuntary dance-like movements that lack any specific pattern
- dystonia, or prolonged muscular contractions that lead to repetitive motions or abnormal postures
- myoclonus, or involuntary twitching or jerking movements of certain muscles
- tics, or sudden muscle contractions that look like twitches that a person may be able to stop or slow
- tremors, or uncontrollable muscle contractions
Someone with aimless movements may have one or more of these symptoms.
Many causes of aimless movements exist. Examples of common causes include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- blepharospasm (eye twitching)
- brain damage after cardiac arrest
- brain tumors
- cervical dystonia
- cerebral palsy
- encephalopathy (brain swelling)
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Huntington’s disease
- kidney failure
- liver failure
- multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- rheumatic fever
- spinal cord injuries
- Tourette syndrome
Taking certain medications or illegal substances can also cause aimless movements. Examples of these medications and drugs include:
- oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
- tricyclic antidepressants
Even if you suspect your medications are causing your aimless movements, don’t stop taking your prescriptions unless your doctor tells you it’s OK.
You should seek medical treatment immediately if the aimless movements come on suddenly and without any explanation. This is especially true if the movements are violent and could cause a person to harm themself.
Make an appointment to see your doctor if you have a medical condition that’s known to cause aimless movements and your movements seem to be getting worse or more noticeable.
A doctor will ask about your medical history and the medications you are taking. The doctor will also watch to observe the movements.
A doctor will review all the medications you’re currently taking. These include prescription medications, supplements, and herbs.
Several tests are available that may help a doctor diagnose the cause of aimless movements. Examples include:
- blood tests to identify excess medications in the blood or electrolyte imbalances
- electroencephalogram (EEG)
- imaging studies, such as CT or MRI scans, or positron emission tomography (PET)
Treatments for aimless movements depend on the underlying cause or causes. Your doctor will consider changing medication or dosage amounts if medications are causing the movements. In some instances, taking the medication and having aimless movements may be preferred to symptoms without the medication.
If a brain disorder is causing the aimless movements, it may be treated in a variety of ways, from new medications to surgeries.