Abnormal involuntary movements (AIM) or 'dyskinesias' is a neurological disorder, which is characterized by abnormal body movements that cannot be controlled, thus called involuntary. Such movements can be experienced in both the lower and upper part of the body. There are many types of AIMs and they are caused by genetic alterations. Out of these various types of AIMs, there are a few which lead to the involuntary head movements in both children and adults. In these movement disorders, there are often jerks seen in the neck, jaw or the eye region of the face and head, which is involuntary and cannot be controlled. There can be various causes of movement disorders. They could also be observed as symptoms of certain diseases like Parkinson's disease.
Non-voluntary Head Movements in Children and Adults
Even though there are very few diseases which lead to head movements that cannot be controlled, they are all medical conditions which have unexplained neurological references. Most of the movement disorders are related to the abnormal movements of hands and legs, muscle movements, etc. but a few section of them lead to the involuntary shaking of the head or neck area. Exact cause of involuntary head movements is not yet known.
The medical condition of chorea is characterized by abnormal involuntary movements such as jerks and sudden change in posture that prolong for a few seconds. It belongs to a group of AIMs known as dyskinesias, that has a broader range of movement including muscles and body parts. These sudden jerks are usually observed in the head, face and limbs and can travel from one part to the other randomly. There are various predicted causes for chorea such as; Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia and epilepsy. There are two types of chorea found in humans, viz; the Huntington's chorea, which occurs in middle age, caused by autosomal inheritance. The other type is Sydenham's chorea, a rare type seen in children, where there are behavioral disturbances followed by general chorea. There are involuntary head movement treatments such as haloperidol or tetrabenazine for chorea.
Dystonia is another neurological condition which comes under the broad category of involuntary movement disorders. In this disorder, there are occurrences of involuntary muscle contractions which last for a particular duration of time and affect the body parts such as neck, eyelids, hands and legs. The involuntary movements that occur are either abnormal positions of these body parts, twists or sudden jerks that usually cause pain. Even though these are neurological in origin, they do not have any effect on the patient's reasoning skills or intelligence. There are many types of dystonias which are observed, viz, generalized, which involves all body parts; focal dystonia, that concentrates on specific areas such as face, limbs, eyelids and neck; segmental, which occurs in two or more adjacent body parts at a time; multifocal, two or more non-adjacent body parts at a time; and hemidystonia, affecting only one side of the body.
Another medical condition which involves involuntary, slightly rhythmic movements of the various body parts is called tremors. A tremor is observed when there are oscillatory movements which are seen due to involuntary muscle contractions in parts such as legs, hands, eyes, head parts and neck muscles. They usually occur in hands but the most common tremors that are seen are chattering of teeth in cold conditions, which is also involuntary. More than a disease in itself, tremors are known to be symptoms that are associated with neurological disorders. There are a number of disorders such as strokes, brain injuries, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis which could have tremors as one of their symptoms.
Tics are defined as repetitive and sudden motor movements that involve involuntary muscle contractions. A few examples of these are toe crunches, eye blinking or even throat clearing. A tic is however, very different from the involuntary movements seen in other disorders such as Dystonia and Tourette's syndrome. Motor tics are those which are based on movements and affect separate muscle groups. Phonic or verbal tics are usually characterized by involuntary sounds that are produced when air is passed through nose and vocal cords. Simple motor tics that include involuntary movements such as mouth movements, head and neck jerks,clapping, etc. and simple phonic tics include sound production like sniffing, grunting or clearing the throat. Complex motor tics however, appear to be voluntary and are prolonged, such as pulling clothes, touching objects, etc. and complex phonic tics include repeating words; either your own or somebody else's.
There are many other abnormal involuntary movements that may lead to head movements. These are: Tourette's syndrome, myoclonus, ataxia. Prompt diagnosis plays an important role in the treatment of these disorders. Therefore, if you are suffering from such involuntary movements, be sure to visit a doctor as soon as possible.