Slowness of movement

Slowness of movement is one of the main symptoms of Parkinson's, alongside tremor and rigidity (stiffness). 

The medical term for slowness of movement is bradykinesia.

If you experience slowness of movement, you may:

  • walk with short, shuffling steps. This can be sudden and unpredictable
  • find movements becoming smaller. You may notice not being able to smile as wide as normal, or that your handwriting has become smaller
  • find it takes longer to do things. For example, doing up buttons or brushing your teeth
  • have a lack of co-ordination
  • have problems breathing
  • have difficulties with swallowing and chewing
  • find your voice is quieter, and your speech is less clear
  • find your face is less expressive, and you might blink less
  • feel more tired than normal. This is because your usual tasks might take more effort to perform

As Parkinson's progresses, you may not be able to move for temporary periods of time (akinesia) if your medication isn't effective. If this is a problem for you, you should speak to your specialist or Parkinson's nurse. 

  • Parkinson's drugs. Levodopa is the most common drug used to treat bradykinesia, but other drugs, such as dopamine agonists, anticholinergics or amantadine may help.
  • If slowness of movement is becoming more frequent, it may be because your medication is wearing off. If you're worried about this, you should talk to your specialist or Parkinson's nurse.
  • Staying physically active and low-intensity exercises can help to improve the strength and pace of your movements. See the 'How can physical activity help slowness of movement?' section for some tips.
  • Some people with Parkinson's find physiotherapy helps to improve their symptoms. A physiotherapist can recommend exercises and ways to help increase movement and flexibility. For example, taking larger steps at a more measured pace.
  • Speech and language therapy. A speech and language therapist can show you ways to increase the loudness and clearness of your voice. They can also help you improve any issues with swallowing and breathing, and reduced facial expressions. 
  • Massage therapy. Some people with Parkinson's have also said that seeing a massage therapist regularly is helpful for keeping their muscles more flexible between physiotherapy sessions. Find out more about massage therapy on our complementary therapies page.

Physical activity and exercise can help you to:

  • regain the normal size of your movements
  • build strength and endurance, so your movements become stronger and you don't get as tired

Slowness of movement can be frustrating when you're trying to exercise. It will take more effort and you'll need to think more consciously about things that should come automatically.

But there are some simple exercises you can do to improve your movement. This includes:

Thinking BIG and POWERFUL for general movements. For example:

  • When walking, take bigger steps, trying to make sure the heel of your leading leg touches the floor first. To challenge yourself, find spaces where you can take larger and wider steps. If necessary, use music for a beat to walk to.
  • Before doing a task, such as using a computer, washing dishes, or anything where you need to use your hands, pull your wrist back away from your body and stretch from your palms and all the way to your fingertips. If you notice you're slowing again during the task, do the stretch again. But this time, touch the tip of each finger with your thumb, with a large and powerful opening and closing motion.

When speaking, think LOUD. You don't need to shout, but raise your chest then head so the sound moves forwards and further. This also allows you to take a slightly larger breath so you can finish a sentence.

When doing physical activity, focus on LARGE and POWERFUL movements. We have a range of video workouts to help you with this, which you can find in our Staying active at home toolkit. A physiotherapist can also advise you on helpful exercises and tips for getting moving. 

Last updated

Next update due 2027 

If you'd like to find out more about how we put our information together, including references and the sources of evidence we use, please contact us at [email protected]