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What causes clumsiness? 16 possible conditions

What Is Clumsiness?

Clumsiness is characterized by motor coordination problems with daily activities.

Alternative Names

Awkward, awkwardness, can’t control movements, clumsiness syndrome, clumsy.


Clumsiness is a common problem in otherwise healthy children with normal intelligence. Motor coordination problems may affect the ability to perform age-appropriate activities, like dressing and running. Clumsy children may be at risk for academic and social problems. A child who has difficulties performing in sports and social situations may experience low self-esteem. Clumsy children may appear restless due to difficulties balancing and stabilizing their bodies. Clumsy children may present with poor muscle tone and posture. Working with teachers and psychotherapists to identify and treat stress, anxiety, and victimization will help improve developmental outcomes long term.

In adults, clumsiness is most often acquired. It may reflect an underlying medical problem. Difficulty with vision or the middle ear many manifest itself as clumsiness, as may the onset of neurological diseases or other medical problems with neurological components.

Associated Diagnoses

Associated diagnoses include:

  • brain tumor
  • autism
  • alcohol withdrawal delirium
  • hypothermia
  • epilepsy
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • head injury
  • multiple sclerosis
  • alcoholism
  • brain cancer
  • developmental coordination disorder
  • encephalitis
  • Reye’s syndrome
  • schizophrenia
  • seizures
  • marijuana dependence
  • stroke
  • opioid dependence
  • side effects of medications
  • Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome
  • Huntington’s chorea
  • restless legs syndrome

Diagnosis and Treatment

A thorough evaluation by a doctor is required for clumsiness. They may then give you a referral to an occupational therapist and a multidisciplinary pediatric team. Clumsiness that is a symptom or complication of other medical disorders may be treated with occupational and physical therapy. The treatment will depend on the diagnosis.

When To Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you are showing signs of clumsiness or if you have seen signs of clumsiness in your child that are not attributed to a known cause or that cannot be easily explained.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.


Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder. It first presents with problems of movement. Smooth and coordinated muscle movements of the body are made possible by a substance in the brain calle...

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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a disorder of muscle movement and coordination caused by an injury to a child's brain that occurs before birth or during infancy. It affects the part of the brain that controls body movement. Othe...

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The Truth Behind Clumsy Child Syndrome: Developmental Coordination Disorder

Children normally develop the ability to sit up, stand, walk, and talk at predictable ages. When they are late in achieving these milestones, it may be due to a developmental problem. Developmental Coordination Disorde...

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Brain Cancer

Brain cancer is an overgrowth of cells in the brain that form masses called tumors. Cancerous (malignant) brain tumors tend to grow very quickly, disrupting body functions. They can be life threatening. However, brai...

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Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Alcohol withdrawal delirium (AWD) is the most serious form of alcohol withdrawal. It causes sudden and severe problems in your brain and nervous system. Approximately five percent of hospital patients being treated fo...

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain tissue. It's most often caused by viral infections. In some cases, bacterial infections can cause encephalitis.

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Multiple Sclerosis Overview

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. MS can cause varying symptoms that appear with a wide range of severity, from mild discomfort to complete disability.

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Mini Stroke (Transient Ischemic Attack)

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

During a transient ischemic attack (TIA, mini stroke) blood stops flowing to the brain for a short period of time. TIA doesn't kill brain cells like a stroke does. TIA causes symptoms that mimic those of a stroke.

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Stroke Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A stroke (a "brain attack") is a medical emergency in which part of the brain is deprived of oxygen. This occurs when an artery that supplies oxygenated blood to the brain becomes damaged and brain cells begin to die.

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Head Injury

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A head injury could be an injury to the brain, skull, or scalp. It can vary in severity depending on the cause. In some cases face swelling can be a sign of a head injury.

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Marijuana Dependence

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Uncontrollable or overly frequent marijuana consumption may indicate abuse or addiction.

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Alcoholism is also known as alcohol dependence. It occurs when you drink so much over time that your body becomes dependent on or addicted to alcohol. When this happens, alcohol use becomes the most important thing i...

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Opioids and related disorders

Opioids are a class of drugs that include both natural and synthetic substances. The natural opioids (referred to as opiates) include opium and morphine.

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Guillain-Barre Syndrome

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare but serious autoimmune disorder. An infectious disease, like the stomach flu or a lung infection, usually triggers it.

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Reye's Syndrome

Reye's syndrome is a rare condition that results in sudden swelling and inflammation of the liver and brain and is often accompanied by a red scaly rash. It is not contagious.

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Adult Brain Tumor

A brain tumor is the growth of abnormal cells in your brain. Whether the growth is cancerous or not, any brain tumor is serious. Symptoms can include both cognitive and physical control problems.

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.