Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder associated with a loss of dopamine nerve cells in a brain region called the basal ganglia. One of the primary tasks for these nerve cells is the planning, initiation, and control of movement. Movement problems are noticed, as the nerve cells degenerate or die. Primary movement problems can include the following:
- Rest tremor - this is a rhythmic shaking in your arms, legs or chin. This tremor is typically worse when you are relaxing and resting your arm or leg.
- Bradykinesia or slowness in movement.
- Rigidity or stiffness in the arms or legs.
- Walking problems such as stooped posture, decreased arm swing and shuffling steps. Balance problems are not experienced until later stages of the disease.
In addition, early symptoms can include masked like face or loss of facial expression, small handwriting termed micrographia, and decreased arm swing. Some people notice a feeling of heaviness in the legs, dragging of one side or cramping in certain muscles. Speech can become softer and swallowing can be affected later in the disease. Walking can change from shuffling steps to festination or a tendency towards smaller and faster steps “pitching you forward.”
Freezing is a term used to define problems with beginning or initiating movements often described as a sense of feet being “glued to the floor.” Postural instability causes trouble with keeping your center of balance upright. This is called retropulsion if there is a tendency to fall backwards.
Dystonia is a symptom that can cause muscle spasm, pulling and pain.