Functional movement disorders: Successful treatment with a physical therapy rehabilitation protocol

Kathrin Czarnecki, Jeffrey M. Thompson, Richard Seime, Yonas E. Geda, Joseph R. Duffy, J. Eric Ahlskog

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Background: Functional (" psychogenic" ) gait and other movement disorders have proven very difficult to treat. Objectives: Describe the Mayo Clinic functional movement disorder motor-reprogramming protocol conducted in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR), and assess short-term and long-term outcomes. Design: Historical-cohort-study assessing non-randomized PMR intervention. Setting: Tertiary care center. Patients: Interventional group: 60 consecutive patients with a chronic functional movement disorder that underwent the PMR protocol between January 2005 and December 2008. Control group: age- and sex-matched patients with treatment-as-usual (n = 60). Interventions: An outpatient, one-week intensive rehabilitation program based on the concept of motor-reprogramming following a comprehensive diagnostic neurological evaluation, including psychiatric/psychological assessment. Main outcome measures: Improvement of the movement disorder by the end of the week-long program (patient- and physician-rated), plus the long-term outcome (patient-rated). Results: Patient demographics: median symptom duration, 17 months (range, 1-276); female predominance (76.7%); mean age 45 years (range, 17-79). Physician-rated outcomes after the one-week treatment program documented 73.5% were markedly improved, nearly normal or in remission, similar to the patient-ratings (68.8%). Long-term treatment outcomes (patient-rated; median follow-up, 25 months) revealed 60.4% were markedly improved or almost completely normal/in remission, compared to 21.9% of controls (p < 0.001). Conclusions: Short-term and long-term successful outcomes were documented in the treatment of patients with functional movement disorders by a rehabilitative, goal-oriented program with intense physical and occupational therapy. The rapid benefit, which was sustained in most patients, suggests substantial efficacy that should be further assessed in a prospective, controlled, clinical trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-251
Number of pages5
JournalParkinsonism and Related Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Conversion disorder
  • Functional movement disorder
  • Physical therapy
  • Psychogenic movement disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Clinical Neurology


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