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Bradykinesia and rigidity

Slowness of movement (bradykinesia) and muscle stiffness (rigidity) are both typical motor symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Everybody with Parkinson’s experiences a different range of symptoms and no two people will be affected in the same way or to the same extent.  


Bradykinesia or slowness of movement is one of the main symptoms of Parkinson’s.  The general effect of bradykinesia is that it takes more time and effort to complete daily tasks, which can result in fatigue. 

When experiencing slowness of movement a person with Parkinson’s may notice the following:

  • Lack of spontaneous activity e.g. arm swing diminishes
  • Fine motor coordination is reduced e.g. handwriting becomes smaller
  • Changes in walking such as short, shuffling steps
  • Episodes of freezing or periods of immobility
  • Difficulty turning over in bed or rising from a chair
  • It takes longer to do things

Managing Bradykinesia

Some people with Parkinson's find physiotherapy helps to improve their symptoms.  A physiotherapist can recommend exercises and techniques to help with your mobility.

Medications for Parkinson’s can also help improve movement and reduce slowness.  


Rigidity or stiff or inflexible muscles is one of the main symptoms of Parkinson's, alongside tremor and slowness of movement. Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms.

In Parkinson’s rigidity is often most noticeable when you move a joint through a circular movement. The movement often feels as if the joint is moving through a number of cogs, known as ‘cogwheel rigidity’.

Some people also experience a constant resistance to motion throughout the entire range of movement, known as 'lead pipe rigidity'.

Parkinson’s and Rigidity

Rigidity can stop muscles from stretching and relaxing. It can cause:

  • Stiff muscles
  • Inflexible muscles
  • Pain and muscle cramps
  • Fixed ‘mask-like’ facial expression
  • Inability to swing arm or arms when walking
  • Difficulties getting out of chairs, turning over in bed and turning around
  • Difficulties with fine movements such as writing or doing up buttons
  • Postural change
  • Fatigue

Managing Rigidity

Consult your GP or specialist for medications that can help with rigidity.

Useful Tips

  • Regular exercise and stretching
    Can help to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility and mobility
  • Physiotherapy
    May help with muscle cramps
  • Speech and language therapy
    May help with exercises to keep facial muscles flexible.  Seeing a therapist soon after diagnosis may make treatment more effective
  • Complementary therapies
    Acupuncture or taking a magnesium supplement have been helpful for some people in reducing rigidity

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