The effects of physical activity on psychogenic movement disorders

Mov Disord. 2010 Mar 15;25(4):421-5. doi: 10.1002/mds.22952.


Psychogenic movement disorders (PMD) are a diagnostic fascinating challenge in both neurologic and psychiatric setting. Many factors influence response to treatment, but few treatment strategies are available. Physical activity proves to be effective in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders, but the effects of regular walking exercise on patients with PMD have never been investigated in a single-blind study. Sixteen outpatients [13 women; mean age 33.0 years (range 22-51)] with primarily mild-to-moderate PMD completed a thrice-weekly, 12-weeks mild walking program. Assessments included DSM-IV interview, the Psychogenic Movement Disorder Rating Scale (PMDRS), Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), Hamilton Depression Scale (HDS), V02 Max, and body mass index (BMI). Changes in total score on the PMDRS were the primary endpoint. A comparison of all measures taken at study onset and after completing the exercise program indicates statistically significant improvements. We observed a relevant improvement in 10 of 16 patients (62%). The mean difference for the primary outcome (PMDRS total) corresponded to about 70%. Compliance was good, and there were no adverse effects. This study provides preliminary evidence for regular low-medium intensity exercise as a safe, adequate, and pleasing intervention for PMD. Furthermore, well-designed studies appear justified to confirm these findings.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Body Mass Index
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Movement Disorders / etiology*
  • Movement Disorders / physiopathology
  • Movement Disorders / therapy*
  • Psychotherapy / methods
  • Young Adult