Involuntary head movements
Involuntary head movements are often referred to as:
- abnormal involuntary movement (AIM)
Involuntary movements are unintended and uncontrolled movements that fall into the category of movement disorders. Keep reading to learn about the causes and treatments for involuntary head twitching.
Involuntary head twitching can be caused by a number of different movement disorders. This can range from neck spasms to Parkinson’s disease.
The common types of movement disorders that affect the head, neck, and face include:
- Cervical dystonia. This condition causes spasms, or intermittent contractions of the neck muscles, resulting in the neck turning in different ways.
- Essential tremor. Essential tremor is a brain disorder that causes trembling or shaking that worsens when you attempt basic movements.
- Huntington’s disease. This condition is an inherited progressive neurodegenerative disorder. Huntington’s disease may cause unintended and uncontrolled movements as brain cells gradually break down.
- Multiple system atrophy. Multiple system atrophy, or MSA, is a rare progressive neurological disorder that causes movement disorders such as Parkinsonism (a group of conditions that have symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease).
- Myoclonus. Myoclonus is a sudden muscle spasm which causes very quick jerks of a single muscle, or group of muscles.
- Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that causes, among other things, tremors.
- Tardive dyskinesia. Tardive dyskinesia is a side effect of long-term use of neuroleptic drugs. These drugs are typically used for psychiatric conditions. This condition can cause involuntary movements such as grimacing and blinking.
- Tourette syndrome. Tourette syndrome is a neurological condition associated with motor tics — repetitive movements — and vocal tics — vocal sounds.
If you’re experiencing any involuntary head twitching, it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor. If you don’t already have a provider, our Healthline FindCare tool can help you connect to physicians in your area. They can evaluate you and set up a treatment plan based on the root cause of your head twitching.
For treating chorea:
Chorea is typically treated with neuroleptics such as:
- risperidone (Risperdal)
- quetiapine (Seroquel)
For treating dystonia:
Dystonia is often treated with Botox injections to block communication between the nerve and muscle.
For treating essential tremors:
Essential tremors may be treated with:
- primidone (Mysoline)
For treating myoclonus:
To treat myoclonus, doctors often prescribe:
- valproic acid
- clonazepam (Klonopin)
For treating tardive dyskinesia:
This condition is often treated with:
- valbenazine (Ingrezza)
- deutetrabenazine (Austedo)
For treating Tourette syndrome:
If this presents mildly, you may not require any treatment. Several treatments are available if needed, though. These include:
- haloperidol (Haldol)
- pimozide (Orap)
- methylphenidate (Ritalin)
- dextroamphetamine (Adderall)
- topiramate (Topamax)
- risperidone (Risperdal)
- aripiprazole (Abilify)
Surgery and other options
Involuntary head movement caused by a number of conditions may be successfully treated with surgery, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS). In DBS, tiny electrodes are implanted in your brain.
Sometimes, surgery such as the selective removal of targeted nerves — anterior cervical rhizotomy or selective peripheral denervation — is recommended to treat unintended or uncontrolled head movements.
Each condition is different, and so their treatments will be, too. Work with your doctor to find the right medications and lifestyle adjustments for you.
Anxiety can cause muscle twitches and spasms, too. Typically, the anxiety causes stress and that stress can put tension on muscles and nerves. That can disrupt body signals which causes certain muscles to react with involuntary movement.
Anxiety-induced stress can also stimulate adrenaline production which can cause certain muscles to move involuntarily.
So, anxiety can trigger involuntary muscle movement. But involuntary muscle movement can also trigger anxiety.
Since involuntary muscle movement is often associated with serious neurological conditions, any involuntary muscle movement can trigger fear. That fear can increase anxiety which, in turn, can trigger the involuntary muscle movement.
Head twitching isn’t considered a life-threatening symptom, but it can negatively impact your quality of life.
With a proper diagnosis, your doctor can help you find the right treatment for your condition. Some of these conditions currently don’t have cures, but they can be managed, and your doctor can work with you on ways to slow the progression.