Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder, may be disruptive to daily living.
What is Tourette Syndrome?
Tourette syndrome is a disorder of the nervous system that begins during childhood, mostly in males. Unwanted sounds, repetitive movements, and tics are the hallmark symptoms of this disorder. Patients may shrug, jerk the head, blink the eyes, or “unintentionally blurt out offensive words”. There is no cure, but symptoms could subside during the teen years.1 Some patients have more severe and long lasting tics. Motor tics, for example, might be “exaggerated blinking of the eyes”, foot stamping, or head banging, while vocal tics may present as “repeated throat clearing”, shouting, yelping, clicking, or sniffing. In Tourette syndrome (TS), the cause is unknown, but the tics are thought to be a result of a problem with nerve communication, perhaps in the neurotransmitter balance. TS seems to be genetic, or it may be due to “development in the womb”. Stress may worsen the symptoms of TS, although some patients may be successful in suppressing tics for a short period of time. The focus it takes to control tics, however, can lead to attention problems in other areas of life. The most famous symptom of Tourette syndrome is the excessive swearing, but it is actually one of the least common symptoms.2 Coprolalia is the scientific term for the inappropriate outbursts of remarks. Tourette, or Tourette’s, is no longer considered as rare of a disorder as it had been. Most cases are mild, and many of the tics decrease in severity over time. It is rare for extreme cases of Tourette’s to continue into adulthood. Tourette’s can be comorbid with other disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).3 Patients may also have “mood disorders, migraines, sleep disorders, and even cervical artery dissection from forceful jerking of the neck”.4
There is no cure for TS, but patients may be referred to therapists to help them deal with stress and learn relaxation. Medications could be prescribed to control tics, if they are too severe.5 Some patients may be treated with Botox or stimulant medications to reduce tics and their severity.6 Medications often carry side effects, and they may not work on symptoms. Aside from cognitive and behavioral therapies, parents can receive training in working with their children who have this disorder.7 Biofeedback, hypnosis, relaxation techniques, meditation, and yoga are all alternative treatment options for TS. Habit reversal training (HRT) is showing some promise of effectiveness in research. Patients could also benefit from trying dietary changes and exercise, which can also reduce stress and improve overall health.8 Chiropractic is another treatment option, especially for patients with spine and neck problems. One case study of an 11-year old boy with Tourette’s demonstrated that chiropractic treatment reduced tics, irritability, and fatigue, eliminating the need for medications in that patient.9