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Last Updated on April 22, 2020

If you or a loved one is recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, you may be wondering how Parkinson’s affects mobility. Image of two older men for an article about how Parkinson’s affects mobility and what you should know about getting around.Parkinson’s disease is a central nervous system (CNS) disorder that is most often characterized by shaking hands; however, it can affect movement in other areas of the body. Those who suffer from the disease likely experience tremors, such as those experienced in the hand, but may also have symptoms of stiffness, slowness, and involuntary movements. 

Read on to learn more about Parkinson’s and mobility, walking devices for Parkinson’s that can help, and how to boost your confidence after diagnosis.

Parkinson’s and Mobility: How Does Parkinson’s Disease Affect Walking?

One of the first things a newly diagnosed patient with Parkinson’s may ask is if Parkinson’s and walking problems go hand in hand. Just like many other diseases and disorders of the nervous system, everyone is affected by Parkinson’s disease differently and, because of this, the condition will present differently. However, most patients will experience some type of symptom that will affect their mobility to some degree. Some of the more common types of symptoms associated with Parkinson’s and mobility include:

  • Bradykinesia: This is a medical term that means “slow movement,” and is one of the most notable features of Parkinson’s disease. Those with the condition often have a slower time moving about. 
  • Dyskinesia: Dyskinesia is similar to tremors in that these are involuntary movements of the muscles. However, dyskinesia is often a side effect of long-term use of drugs used to treat Parkinson’s, and is not related to Parkinson’s and mobility itself. Patients may also develop dystonia (muscle cramping) from Parkinson’s medication as well. 
  • Rigidity: Often related to bradykinesia, those with Parkinson’s report that their muscles feel rigid all of the time, sometimes so rigid that they feel they cannot move them.
  • Gait disorder: Many patients with Parkinson’s cannot swing their arms as they once did, and have an irregular gait. The condition also affects one side of the body more than the other.

Parkinson’s and Mobility: Canes, Walkers, and Wheelchairs

Mobility aids have helped countless patients, especially for those who have Parkinson’s and are unable to walk. Depending on the nature of the lack of mobility, the patient may need a cane, walker, or wheelchair. If you’re using a cane with Parkinson’s, opt for a straight cane with a rubber tip, and not a tripod-shaped walking cane. They provide less stability for those with Parkinson’s because not all feet touch the ground at one time. In these cases, using a cane with only one foot is better. When it comes to Parkinson’s and mobility, particularly if you’re hiking or going for a walk, hiking sticks or poles provide sturdy support as well. 

If you’re considering a walker for PD, choose one that has large wheels that also has locking brakes. Because of how Parkinson’s affects mobility, you want to choose a walker that offers the most stability possible. Those with built-in seats or baskets may be especially helpful to the patient who is using them. 

A wheelchair is likely not a necessity at the outset of a Parkinson’s diagnosis, but it may be necessary as the disease advances. Just keep in mind that a wheelchair will offer more access to things you want to do as the disease progresses – a wheelchair will never limit your mobility.

Parkinson’s and Mobility: Getting Accustomed to Walking and PD

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to Parkinson’s and mobility. You may want mobility aids right from the beginning of diagnosis, whether it be a walking cane, a walker, or wheelchair, or you may want to keep walking unassisted as long as possible. As you’re ambulating:

  • Think about movements before you make them; you may have to take smaller, slower steps 
  • Give yourself extra time to navigate corners or make turns as you’re walking
  • Land with your heel first
  • Don’t carry too many objects in your hand while walking
  • Stand tall and look directly in front of you, never at your feet
  • If you feel your muscles begin to freeze, bring your body to a complete stop

Keeping in mind that Parkinson’s and mobility can sometimes be a tough road to navigate, just giving yourself a little extra time and being kind to yourself can make a world of difference. Also, if your doctor does recommend a walker or cane, it’s a good idea to at least give it a try and see how you feel. 

For more ideas about Parkinson’s and mobility aids, such as wheelchair ramps or stair lifts, or to hear about other mobility products, such as recliner chairs with power lift, contact us today at Williams Lift Co. We want both caregivers and their patients to live their best lives possible.

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