Parkinson's Disease and Freezing
In Parkinson's disease, freezing is a sudden, brief inability to start movement or to continue rhythmic, repeated movements, such as finger-tapping, writing, or walking. Freezing most often affects walking. But it also can affect speech, writing, and your ability to open and close your eyes. It tends to develop later in the course of the disease.
Freezing can be very disabling when it affects the way you walk. It can cause you to stop as though your feet suddenly have become glued to the floor. It can result in falls that cause serious injury, such as a hip fracture. Freezing may occur at an open doorway, at a line on the floor, or when you turn around. It may be more likely to occur if you are under stress or in a crowd.
What can help you get unfrozen?
There are several tricks you can learn to help you become "unfrozen" when you have a freezing episode from Parkinson's disease.
- Step toward a specific target on the ground.
Some people use handheld laser pointers to create a target.
- Place a cane or walking stick on the floor in front of you and then step over it.
You can also have someone else place it in front of you.
- Make your first step a precise, stiff-legged, marching-type step, with a long stride.
These or other techniques may help you overcome freezing and get moving again. Physical therapy, specially trained dogs, and special devices can help you if freezing is a severe or frequent problem.
What medicines are used to treat freezing?
Apomorphine is a fast-acting dopamine agonist that can be helpful in treating freezing. It can be injected under the skin or used as a film that dissolves under your tongue.
Changing the levodopa dosage may improve freezing. Or you may try an inhaled levodopa. If you're taking other medicines, their doses may also be changed.
Physical therapy may help you improve your walking and reduce your risk of falling. It may also help you know if certain motions cause freezing and help you avoid them.
Current as of: May 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.