If you have Parkinson’s, you may find movement more difficult. Specialist physiotherapist Bhanu Ramaswamy looks at why this might happen and what might help.
As Parkinson’s progresses, how easily you move may fluctuate. Symptoms like stiffness and freezing can limit certain actions, especially when you’re on your feet.
Slowness of movement and stiffness
These Parkinson’s symptoms happen when signals in your brain affect your ability to move your body properly. So when you go to move, your body creates a smaller and slower movement than it should.
Conditions, such as arthritis, changes to your eyesight or hearing, changes to the sensation in your feet or hands, or an old injury can also affect how easily you are able to move.
A good way of breaking slow and small movements down is to think BIG. For example, walk using a longer stride, or walk with purpose by thinking taller or straighter. Add power to your walk using your legs and arms. This will help you increase how fast you can go.
Dancing your way through one room to another can also help start and keep up the movement. The aim is always to get your brain to calculate larger size movements every time you create a movement.
The power of imagination
Using your imagination can help energise you to move and kickstart the areas of your brain that control movement.
For example, imagine walking to the kitchen to make a drink like a model on a catwalk. In your head, let the imaginary audience know where you’re going, and what you’re going to do.
If you enjoy football, imagine dribbling a ball to the door or do keepy-uppies with each knee. Or if tennis is your passion, imagine playing shots against a wall.
Remember to rest
It’s not always appropriate to push your body, especially if you experience fatigue, or if you haven’t slept well. Always make time to rest, even if it’s just for five minutes. This might be watching a TV programme, resting on your bed or practising mindfulness.
If you freeze, you may not be able to move forward for several seconds or minutes. You may also feel like your lower half is stuck, but the top half of your body is still able to move.
Here are some ideas to think about:
- If your legs won’t lift off the ground when you first stand up from a chair, breathe in and draw yourself up tall. As you do this, make sure your feet are planted firmly on the floor. Sway slowly from side to side, trying to pick each foot up before you’re able to bend your leg and move the other forward. You may find that whichever side your Parkinson’s affects you most, will usually begin the movement.
- If the freezing happens as you’re walking, tell yourself, “Big step on the heel”. Then take a larger step, or look where you want to end up and imagine how many steps this should take you. Count those steps out loud as you walk. This may be especially helpful if you’re going through a doorway or into another room, as the door frame or flooring change interrupts the walking signals.