A Tour of Tourette's Syndrome

By: Sana Manzer and Bea Remorca

What is Tourette's?

Tourette's is a neurological disorder characterized by tics that can begin between ages 2-21 and will last for the rest of that person's lifetime. A patient diagnosed with Tourette's will be expected to live a normal life span. It was discovered by Gilles de la Tourette after noticing 9 patients who reported having involuntary movements since childhood. At first the disorder was called "maladie des tics," which was later changed to Tourette's disorder or syndrome after Gilles de la Tourette.
What is Tourette Syndrome?


The exact cause of Tourette Syndrome is unknown. It’s a complex disorder caused by a combination of inherited (genetic) and environmental factors. Chemicals in the brain that transmit nerve impulses such as dopamine and serotonin, might play a role. In addition, some researchers propose that this syndrome is linked to the basal ganglia the part of the brain that controls body movement.

Signs & Symptoms

Tourette's causes a patient to experience involuntary tics (sudden and brief sounds or movements) which can affect their daily interactions and the quality of life. There are simple tics (sudden, brief, and repetitive involving a limited group of muscles) and complex tics (distinct and coordinated movements that involve several muscle groups). Within those classifications come either motor or vocal tics. A simple motor tic could be nose twitching and an example of a complex tic is stepping in a certain pattern. Vocal tics include barking (simple) or using swear words (complex).


There is no specific test, but a doctor can diagnose a patient based on their history of signs and symptoms. Some of the criteria include: Having vocal and motor tics, tics occurring almost everyday for more than a year, and tics beginning before the age of 18. Although these symptoms can help attribute the diagnosis, to be certain that these tics are being caused by tourette's, the doctor may recommend taking blood tests or imaging studies (MRI).


Although there is no cure for Tourette Syndrome, there are treatments to help manage the tics caused by TS. Many people with TS have tics that do not get in the way of their living their daily life and, therefore, do not need any treatment. However, medication and behavioral treatments are available if tics cause pain or injury; interfere with school, work, or social life; or cause stress. A promising new behavioral treatment is the Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) includes habit reversal in addition to other strategies, including education about tics and relaxation techniques. CBIT has been shown to be effective at reducing tic symptoms and tic-related impairment among children and adults. Other options may include seeing a therapist to help you learn how to deal with the social issues that your tics and other symptoms may cause.

Case Study of a 7 year old male with Tourette's Syndrome

He begun experiencing symptoms at the age of 5 and felt them in his face, neck, feet, and arms. At the start, they occurred infrequently but over time, it increased to 100's of tics per day. He was diagnosed at 7 and underwent many treatments such as elimination diet and acupuncture to eliminate the causes of his tics. The treatments proved ineffective until his mother stumbled upon upper cervical chiropractic care, in which she scheduled an evaluation and during his evaluation, they discovered an upper neck injury possibly caused by traumas reported before he turned 5. In less than 3 months after his first upper cervical adjustment, all tics were absent.

Case Study Work Cited:

"Tics and Tourette Syndrome Case Studies – Maui Hawaii Upper Cervical Chiropractic – Dr. Erin Elster D.C." Tics and Tourette Syndrome Case Studies – Maui Hawaii Upper Cervical Chiropractic – Dr. Erin Elster D.C. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2016. <http://www.erinelster.com/CaseStudies.aspx?ConditionID=24>.

Works Cited

"125 Years of Tourette Syndrome." 125 Years of Tourette Syndrome. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. <http://tourette.org/Medical/history.html>.

"Tourette Syndrome." Diagnosis. N.p., 21 Nov. 2015. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tourette-syndrome/diagnosis-treatment/diagnosis/dxc-20163627>.

"Tourette Syndrome Symptoms, Causes, Treatment - How Is Tourette Syndrome Diagnosed? - MedicineNet." MedicineNet. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. <http://www.medicinenet.com/tourette_syndrome/page3.htm>.

"Tourette's Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. <http://www.webmd.com/brain/tourettes-syndrome#1>.

"What Is Tourette Syndrome?" Tourette Syndrome Association of Australia. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. <http://www.tourette.org.au/about-tsaa/what-is-tourette-syndrome/>.