Rigidity, or the stiffness and inflexibility of the limbs, neck or trunk, is one of the primary motor symptoms of Parkinson’s. However, not all patients with Parkinson’sexperience rigidity. In Parkinson’s, rigidity can prevent you from moving easily, and this lack of easy movement can cause discomfort or pain in the muscles.
The other main primary motor symptoms are tremor, particularly when the limb is at rest, postural instability, impaired balance or difficulty standing or walking, and bradykinesia (the gradual loss and slowing down of spontaneous movement).
Muscles usually stretch when they move and relax when they are at rest, and rigidity causes the muscles to remain stiff and unable to rest. When your muscles are rigid and you’re having trouble moving them, this can leads to several other problems.
When coupled with bradykinesia, rigidity may cause a person with Parkinson’s:
– Not to be able to move or extend their arms or legs very far, which means they take shorter steps and may not swing their arms as they walk. This can lead to problems with balance and could increase risk of falls.
– to have problems carrying out day to day tasks that require small, careful movements such as buttoning a shirt or tying up shoe laces.
– to have trouble with normal facial expressions, leading to a mask-like blank expression(Hypomimia). Rigidity can interfere with normal communication both by the masked face appearance leaving others uncertain of your emotional reaction to the conversation and by changing the appearance of your written words as well. This expression can, in turn, affect your relationships, as your facial expression may suggest that you feel differently about a situation based on body language.
If your face is rigid and mask-like, a speech therapist may be able to help you exercise those muscles and keep them more flexible. It’s best to start this type of therapy soon after your diagnosis to have the most success with it.
When moving one side of the body, rigidity can worsen the movement on the opposite side of the body. For example, stiffness in your left arm and shoulder may be enhanced when you use your right arm.
The muscle rigidity in Parkinson’s disease can impact every area of your life including walking, eating and mobilising around the home for example getting out of a chair or turning in bed.
Stress, anxiety and depression can all worsen motor-symptoms and make rigidity worse. If you suffer from any of these, treating this can ultimately improve rigidity and even tremor.
The muscle rigidity in Parkinson’s Disease can impact every area of your life. Going through a normal day, rigidity affects mobility by making it difficult walking, turning, with the stopped posture disrupting the normal way in which landmarks are used to navigate safely. Eating can be affected, and even getting out of a chair or turning in bed can be difficult.