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Freezing and Parkinson's

Terry, who has Parkinson's, freezing at a ticket barrier in a busy train station

Many people with Parkinson's will experience freezing - when it feels like your feet are stuck to the ground, or you freeze while you're doing something repetitive.

Because everyone has a different experience of Parkinson's, it is difficult to say who will get this symptom. But it's more likely to happen to people who have had Parkinson's for some time.

What is freezing?

For me, I feel it's mind over matter a lot of the time. I have to look at my feet and will them to move, which I find really helps.

Paul, diagnosed in 2013

Freezing is when someone stops suddenly while walking. It can also happen during a repetitive movement, such as cleaning your teeth or writing, or during speaking or eating.

Many people with Parkinson's describe freezing as having their feet 'glued to the ground'.

You might not be able to move forward again for several seconds or minutes.

Freezing is not the same as going 'off', when your symptoms are less controlled or you find it difficult to move before your next dose of medication is due. However, you might be more likely to freeze during this time.

When does it happen?

Freezing often happens when something interrupts the flow of a movement. People with Parkinson's are more likely to freeze:

  • during walking
  • while walking towards doorways or obstacles
  • when turning or changing direction
  • in crowded or cluttered places
  • during conversation in a group
  • if medication isn't working properly

What can help with freezing?

There are techniques that can help with freezing, such as 'cueing', counting or using a rhythm when you walk. You need to find out which methods work for you so you can plan a strategy to help you cope.

Techniques to help with freezing can be found in our Freezing in Parkinson's information sheet.

What treatment is available?

When I freeze or I'm about to freeze, I stop and count up to 10 and can resume walking.

Kris, diagnosed in 2004

Speak to your GP or specialist about the best treatment for your freezing. You can speak to your Parkinson's nurse, if you have one.

They can also refer you for any therapy that you both think may help you. Treatments include the following:

Physiotherapy can help with exercises and techniques to help you get moving again after freezing and stop you falling when you freeze. A physiotherapist can also advise you on walking aids.

Occupational therapy can also help you stay independent by making your home safer and everyday tasks easier.

Exercise to keep your legs moving can help to stop freezing from happening.