Motor Tics

Help to stop constant, uncontrolled, involuntary body movements.

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  1. What are Motor Tics?
  2. What Causes Motor Tics?
  3. Diagnosing Motor Tics
  4. Help for Motor Tics
  5. More Information on Motor Tics

What are Motor Tics?

Motor tics are rapid and uncontrollable movements or spasms involving various muscle groups in the body. These are involuntary movements and they tend to occur in sudden bouts. Usually occurring on a daily basis, motor tics are almost always an unwelcome occurrence and are generally quite frustrating to deal with.

Motor tics are more common in children than adults, however, in some cases they can continue into adulthood. Unlike voluntary muscle actions, motor tics are very difficult to control, and while some people manage to suppress them for a short time, it seldom lasts long.

In fact, suppressing tics can be described as trying to suppress a sneeze that really wants to come out, and once released; most people feel a sense of relief afterwards.

Common motor tics include:

  • Excessive blinking
  • Grimaces of the face
  • Quick movements of the arms, legs, or other areas

For many children, motor tics are transient, and disappear within a matter of weeks or months. This is especially true for children, who develop tics during periods of intense stress. For others, motor tics are a long-term problem which may last for years. When this is the case, a diagnosis of chronic motor tic disorder is often made. When motor tics occur together with vocal tics, then a diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome may be considered.

What Causes Motor Tics?

The cause of motor tics is not fully understood, however, much research has suggested that there is a strong genetic component, and therefore run in families. Other research has also suggested that the constant movement is related to brain chemical abnormalities or deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals such as magnesium.

Various factors have also been shown to trigger or worsen existing tic conditions and these include tension, stress, fatigue, illness, recent head injury, excitement, and certain medications. In other cases, tics are a symptom of other conditions such as =Tourette’s syndrome.

Diagnosing Motor Tics

Motor tics are generally diagnosed after a detailed patient history and description of symptoms, as well as a physical examination. In rare cases when the tics are atypical or accompanied by other symptoms, your health care practitioner may recommend an EEG to rule out other problems such as seizures or other movement conditions.

Help for Motor Tics

There are a variety of treatment options for motor tics and these include prescription medications, psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques.

When tics are transient, no treatment is generally the best option. Making a child overly aware or concerned about the tics will simply make the situation worse, so in many cases the wait and see approach is the best option.

When motor tics become disabling or start to interfere with aspects of life, then your doctor may recommend medication such as Risperidone to help manage the tics and eliminate uncontrolled body movements. While these medications may be effective, they do have a number of unwanted side-effects.


More Information on Motor Tics

Tips for concerned parents
  • Understand how the tics affect your child and make changes at home and school to best accommodate them.
  • Try not to draw too much attention to your child’s tics and don’t make them overly concerned about them. Doing so will make your child feel more anxious and will more than likely worsen the situation.
  • Keep a record of your child’s tics, (when they get worse and the events that surround them). This may help identify triggers. Be careful not to cause your child more stress – approach this in a way that makes your child feel secure.
  • Realize tics are not done on purpose. Although tics may frustrate you, do not punish your child for having tics, and try not to show any frustration you may feel. Doing so may increase your child’s anxiety and cause more tics.
  • Make sure your child is not having caffeine which is present in sodas, coffee, tea and chocolate.
  • Teach your child how to relax and de-stress. Try teaching your child deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques.
  • Encourage regular exercise. Sports and outdoor games are great ways to instill a love of exercise which will untimately reduce stress levels.
  • Ensure that your child is eating enough magnesium. Magnesium rich foods include green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, as well as beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.
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