Parkinson’s disease (PD) is called a movement disorder because it affects movement. These symptoms are known as movement (or motor) symptoms and can include slowness of movements, tremors, muscle stiffness, and trouble walking. However, there are many Parkinson’s symptoms we cannot see that are known as non-movement (non-motor) symptoms — they can include trouble sleeping, depression and speech problems.
Parkinson’s is a personalized disease, meaning every person living with the diseases experiences a different combination of symptoms unique to them.
Parkinson’s affects many symptoms of the body. Symptoms usually slowly develop over time. If you experience sudden changes or new symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor because these may be signs of an infection or a medication-related side effect.
Movement symptoms, such as a tremor, are the most visible and well-known signs of Parkinson’s. For people with Parkinson’s, when the brain stops producing enough dopamine (the chemical that helps your body move), symptoms can begin to arise and generally make it more difficult to move over time.
There is no single test or scan for Parkinson’s, but there are three telltale symptoms that help doctors make a diagnosis:
Bradykinesia plus either tremor or rigidity must be present for a PD diagnosis to be considered.
Other movement related symptoms can include trouble with balance and falls, stooped posture, trouble moving, muscle cramps, involuntary movements, and others.
Nearly every person with Parkinson’s will develop other health problems related to Parkinson's. These symptoms are diverse and collectively known as non-movement symptoms.
Facts about Non-Movement Symptoms
- Many people with Parkinson’s remember non-movement symptoms showing up before movement-related symptoms.
- These symptoms can impact your energy, mental health, thinking and memory, autonomic function (impairment of which can cause orthostatic hypotension, constipation, urinary incontinence, sexual dysfunction, digestive issues, abnormal sweating, etc.), and sleep.
- Non-movement symptoms can also cause sensory issues (including pain), loss of smell/taste, and vision changes.
- Non-movement symptoms are common and can be more troublesome and disabling than movement symptoms.
Depression and anxiety, both non-movement symptoms, are the top factors impacting the overall health of people with Parkinson’s, according to the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project, the largest clinical study of Parkinson’s.
Exercise and Complementary Therapies
of people with Parkinson's in the U.S. incorporate complementary therapies into their self-care.
hours of exercise a week, experience a slowed decline in quality of life compared to those who start later.
Exercise has been shown to help improve Parkinson’s symptoms — from improving balance and gait to mental health. The Parkinson’s Outcomes Project shows that people with PD who start exercising earlier and a minimum of 2.5 hours a week, experience a slowed decline in quality of life compared to those who start later.
Complementary therapies support or complement traditional medicine and can be utilized to treat PD symptoms. There are many kinds of complementary medicine — from vitamins and supplements to acupuncture and meditation. Mind-body wellness practices are proven to reduce stress and ease many Parkinson's symptoms.
Page reviewed by Dr. Jun Yu, Movement Disorders Fellow at the University of Florida, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence.