What Causes Involuntary Head Jerks?

Involuntary head jerks are abnormal movements of the head that appear unwillingly in an uncontrolled manner. It includes tremors, dyskinesia, chorea, and dystonia. It is a type of movement disorder. It can happen at any age. Its symptoms include involuntary twitching or turning of the head with pain and uneasiness. Its causes can be anxiety, stress, injury, tumor, epilepsy and many more. This condition is not life threatening, but it can impair one’s quality of life. There is no permanent cure for head jerks but it can be managed.

What Causes Involuntary Head Jerks?

Involuntary head jerks refer to abnormal movements of the head that are unpredictable, unintended and uncontrollable. It is represented by involuntary twitching of the head. Involuntary head jerks may appear due to a variety of reasons. It may originate from neck to illness like Parkinson’s disease. The causes of such involuntary head jerks are-

Anxiety And Stress– anxiety and stress can cause involuntary movements of the head by disrupting the nerve impulses to the head.

Head Injury– direct trauma or injury to the head causes damage or death of some of the brain cells. This may disrupt the proper supply of nerve impulses to the muscles of the head resulting in involuntary head jerks. In some head injuries, blood supply to the brain get interrupted that may lead to hypoxia in head muscles leading to head jerks.

Brain Tumor– brain tumor is characterized by the abnormal growth of brain cells.1 This overgrowth can damage healthy cells of the brain. When the area of the brain that controls the movement of the head muscles are affected, then involuntary head jerks can appear.

Essential Tremors– it is a disorder characterized by trembling or shaking of a part of the body when attempted to move.2 It affects head muscles too that may cause head jerks when the head is moved.

Epilepsy – it is a disorder of nerve origin characterized by involuntary contractions of various muscles of the body. It can trigger head jerks.3

Cervical Dystonia– it is a disorder that causes spasms in the neck muscles intermittently. This causes turning of the neck in different ways resulting in intermittent spasms in the muscles of the head. This causes involuntary head jerks.

Huntington’s Disease– it is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes gradual death of the brain cells. Due to the death of the brain cells, movements in the muscles of the body become jerky and uncontrolled. This also involves head muscles resulting in head jerks.

Multiple System Atrophy– multiple system atrophy is a rare progressive disease that has a group of symptoms similar to parkinsonism. It causes a number of movement disorders similar to Parkinsonism. It can trigger involuntary head jerks.

Myoclonus– it is a condition that is marked by a sudden spasm of the muscles. It can involve a single or group of muscles. When it affects the head muscles, it causes sudden jerks.4

Parkinson’s Disease– it is a progressive disease of the nervous system characterized by involuntary movement or tremors of the muscles. It is one of the leading causes of involuntary head jerks.

Tardive Dyskinesia– it is a condition that arises due to long term consumption of neuroleptic drugs. These drugs are prescribed for psychiatric illness. This condition is characterized by involuntary movements like blinking of eyes or grimacing. It can induce involuntary head jerks.

Tourette Syndrome– it is a disease of nerve origin that causes both motor and vocal tics.5 Motor tics are characterized by repetitive movements of the muscles followed by generation of sounds from vocal cords. This may also trigger twitching of the head.


Involuntary head jerks are unintended and unpredictable movements of the head. The causes of such head jerks are anxiety, head trauma, brain tumors, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, myoclonus, and other diseases discussed above.