Parkinson's Changes Over Time
Symptoms usually change slowly. Slowness of movement, rigidity or feelings of stiffness can worsen. You may notice that your general movements are slower, dexterity such as when using your fingers to button your clothes are reduced and activities take longer to complete.
Stiffness begins in the arms and legs and over the years can spread to the middle part of your body such as your neck and back.
Movement such as tremor, slowness, and rigidity typically begin on one side of the body and spread to the other side over time.
Walking, speech or swallowing problems are examples of symptoms that can become a problem though usually only after many years as the disease advances.
Speech is generally softer; sometimes more slurred and can sometimes have an irregular stuttering quality. Word finding problems or difficulty naming objects can make speech more difficult. Facial expression can be masked with less spontaneous expression making it more difficult to express yourself.
Posture can bend or slouch forward, or to one side. Walking speed is initially slower. Early in the course one arm swings less than the other and one leg has a shorter more shuffling stride. You may notice that you drag or stub your toe (sometimes seen as a greater wear pattern to the bottom of your shoe). As walking problems progress steps become shorter with more shuffling.
True walking and balance problems usually take many years to develop. Imbalance and motor initiation or freezing problems can lead to falls
It is important to remember that these changes occur slowly over many years. Fortunately there are things you can do to reduce the impact of these symptoms or delay their onset. It is very helpful to begin an exercise program that includes balance, strengthening and posture exercises as early as the time of diagnosis to delay problems in these areas.
A physical therapist can help you set up an exercise program if you do not know how or need help getting started.
A speech therapist can prescribe speech exercises before you have a significant problem to keep speech loud and clear.
An occupational therapist can help you with dexterity and completion of everyday tasks. By working on problems such as speech and balance early before they become a problem, you can reduce their impact on you later.
A pro-active approach means you can work on these problems before they are a concern. A rehabilitation specialist can help you get started. See the Comprehensive Care Worksheet to see how these specialists can help you. Print this worksheet and share it with your doctor or healthcare provider so that you can get the referrals you need to stay well!