Bradykinesia is one of the most common Parkinson’s disease (PD) symptoms, primarily characterized by the slowness of movement, mask-like expression of the face and reduced blink rate of the eyes. Depending on the severity of the disease, the patient’s face may appear less expressive due to decreased unconscious facial movements. Other signs include having trouble in turning over, difficulty in standing up and small handwriting.
Unlike tremor, Bradykinesia is present in all cases of Parkinson’s, however, it can be mistaken for depression during the early stage. Muscle weakness, tremors and rigidity may contribute to aggravate the movement disorder. This may result in the patient finding simple tasks (such as getting dressed, making a sandwich) difficult and time-consuming. This slowness of movement is most obvious when a person is performing activities that require several successive steps.
An individual suffering from Bradykinesia due to PD may feel like his body isn’t obeying his brain’s commands immediately. He may experience trouble in writing and notice handwriting getting smaller and slanting upwards to the right. This symptom related to Bradykinesia in Parkinson’s disease is called Micrographia.
One may feel weakness in arms and legs; limbs may ache as one tries to perform tasks that involve repetitive motion, such as walking. When severe, Bradykinesia may force an individual to drag his feet in order to walk. He may start shuffling more than walk and starts using slow, short steps. The slowness of movement can manifest in gestures, in speech, and even in how often one blinks eyes. This is the reason why the disorder may finally lead to soft speech that may get difficult for others to understand.
Scientists believe that Bradykinesia results from a failure of basal ganglia attempt to reinforce the cortical mechanisms that execute the commands to move. The cortical deficit, which is most apparent in midline motor areas, leads to difficulty with self-paced movements, prolonged reaction times and abnormal electrical activity of the brain. This justifies why a PD patient faces problems in performing more than one task at the same time.
Although Bradykinesia cannot be cured, medications and other therapies can help manage the symptoms. Some of the non-clinical treatments to manage the symptom include Physical Therapy, Yoga and Guided Imagery. Some people with Parkinson’s find Physical Therapy most helpful. Exercises with a focus on resistance help patients relieve Bradykinesia (slowness of movement) and weakness.
Certain medications for Parkinson’s can also help improve movement hence reduce slowness. Used in the early stages of the disease, Dopamine Agonists mimic the role of dopamine and help relieve Bradykinesia. Levodopa can also be prescribed to control muscle rigidity along with Bradykinesia. Excessive daytime sleepiness, hallucinations, confusion and swelling of the ankles are commonly reported side effects of these medications.