Advanced Treatment for Movement Disorders

As movement disorders progress, patients need constant monitoring and adjustments to ensure the long-term effectiveness of their treatments. University of Chicago Medicine physicians develop individualized treatment plans to help patients regain as much function as possible. They apply their expertise to control symptoms, and take care a step further by determining additional treatment options when initial therapies, such as medication, become ineffective

While there is no cure for Parkinson's disease and similar movement disorders, we offer a combination of medications, botulinum toxin injections and surgical treatment options to provide the best possible care for each individual.

Medications often help to control symptoms, such as tremors. Most drugs either convert into dopamine, a chemical released by nerve cells that helps regulate movement, stimulate the system of dopaminergic neurons or slow down the degradation of dopamine in the brain. However, they have side effects that need to be consistently managed by your physician. Our team offers unmatched expertise in managing the delicate and complicated balance between treating symptoms and managing side effects. We will adjust your medications, doses and regimens as often as needed for the best possible outcome.

Botulinum toxin, commonly known as Botox, is FDA-approved to treat symptoms of dystonia, which involves frequent, intermittent muscle contractions that can cause repetitive, uncontrollable gestures, and other movement disorders. The neurotoxins in Botox prevent symptoms by blocking the chemical acetylcholine in muscles. Our physicians have extensive experience with effective use of Botox injections to significantly reduce symptoms of dystonia, blepharospasm, hemifacial spasm, muscle spasms, muscle stiffness (spasticity) and pain.

Some patients are not candidates for deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery. In these cases, we may perform lesion surgery, a technique that uses radiofrequency or laser heating to interrupt overactive cell networks in the brain, often located in the basal ganglia. The procedure leaves behind a tiny lesion. Our surgeons use stereotactic instruments that allow submillimetric precision and sophisticated image-guided brain mapping technology to skillfully navigate to targeted tissue in the brain responsible for abnormal movement. Lesion surgery is only recommended in some cases after less aggressive options have been ruled out.

Certain changes in daily activities and behaviors may help strengthen your body against the progression of neurological disease. Our physicians and physical therapists will discuss options with you, such as changes in diet and exercise routines, physical and speech therapy, and activities requiring fine motor skills.

Our physicians are experts in deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery. Almost all of our patients undergoing DBS surgery experience a significant reduction in the severity of symptoms. Additionally, our physicians actively research and develop techniques to enhance the effectiveness of DBS surgery.

Learn more about deep brain stimulation

Parkinson's disease patient Cheng Xiu Xu, who was treated by physicians Tao Xie, MD, PhD, and Peter Warnke, MD, plays ping pong at her apartment building

Deep Brain Stimulation Helps Woman Regain Control of Parkinson's Symptoms

Cheng Xiu Xu's Parkinson's symptoms became too much for her and her neurologist. She turned to UChicago Medicine experts for relief. Now that she's doing better, she can once again enjoy her favorite sport: ping-pong.

Read Xu's Story