Not everyone with Parkinson’s disease has the same symptoms, but most people with Parkinson’s do experience frequent pain.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder. The first symptoms are often problems with movement. Pain is another common symptom.
In this article, we address the types of pain associated with PD and how to manage them.
People with Parkinson’s disease experience various physical, cognitive, and psychological symptoms. In addition to these symptoms, it’s also very common for people with PD to experience pain.
Chronic pain is twice as common in people with PD as it is in people who do not have PD. More than 80% of people with PD report experiencing pain, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation.
People with PD tend to experience pain on the same side of their body that their first symptom occurred. It’s common for someone who initially noticed a slight shake or odd feeling in their left arm to eventually have more symptoms on their left side. The pain generally stays on the same side or area of the body where it originated.
When a person feels pain, nerves in their skin, joints, and internal organs send pain signals to their brain. For people with PD, their brain picks up those signals in different ways.
The neurological changes in the body can send signals to the brain that there is pain. These pain signals can make it difficult to effectively treat symptoms in people with PD. It is important to understand the cause of the pain to help manage the symptoms.
While there are a variety of symptoms a person with PD can experience, there are four primary types of pain associated with the disease.
Central pain can be a vaguely uncomfortable sensation, including symptoms like:
Nearly 10% of people with PD have central pain, estimates the Parkinson’s Foundation. Some people experience pain in multiple places at the same time. People with PD often describe it as having body pain or pain all over.
Dystonia often happens in the early morning. It typically affects the neck, face, or throat.
Pain in the muscles or bones is common. Up to 75% of people with PD experience it. It’s related to other musculoskeletal symptoms, such as:
Joint pain, especially in one shoulder, is also common. People may receive a diagnosis of frozen shoulder or rotator cuff problems. Sometimes, this can lead to the need for surgery.
Changes in posture, as well as dystonia, can damage nerves. When nerve damage happens, radicular pain can occur. It feels sharp, like a prickly or fiery sensation, rather than a dull ache.
A common type of neuropathic pain is sciatica. It’s felt in the lower back and down the leg.
Although there are many types of pain, some additional symptoms people with PD can experience include:
Occasionally, people with PD experience headaches, which may be a side effect of a PD medication.
Although a headache may seem common, it’s important to discuss these symptoms with your doctor. They can ensure other prescription medications are spaced out to help alleviate any side effects.
Restless legs syndrome
Restless legs syndrome is a neurological disorder. People often describe it as feeling as if there are prickly sensations in their legs, as though they are being stuck with pins.
The discomfort people feel is not only agitating but can also stimulate the impulse to move the legs when they would otherwise be still, such as when relaxing or lying in bed. This can make it hard to rest.
Medication can treat the symptoms of restless leg syndrome.
Pain associated with PD is often overlooked, especially in the beginning. However, it can have a significant impact on your quality of life.
Because there are a variety of causes of the different types of pain, it’s important for your doctor to understand what is causing the pain so they can help treat and relieve the symptoms.
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
The exact cause of PD is not fully known, although it may have both genetic and environmental components.
A person who has PD experiences a loss of nerve cells that control dopamine, which is a chemical that helps control movement in the body.
PD isn’t fatal, but it can cause severe symptoms that interfere with daily activities, movement, and mobility.
How is Parkinson’s disease diagnosed?
There is no single test that can diagnose PD. A doctor who specializes in neurogenerative conditions typically makes a PD diagnosis based on your symptoms, medical history, and the results from a physical and neurological exam.
Is there a cure for Parkinson’s disease?
Currently, there is no cure for PD, but there are ways to manage the symptoms with medication and pain-relieving therapies.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder. Its first symptoms are usually problems with movement.
Although not everyone has the same symptoms, more than 80% of people with PD report that they experience pain. In fact, people with PD report pain to be the most life-altering side effect and the part of the condition that causes the biggest disruption to their quality of life.
While there is no cure for PD, its symptoms can be managed. You can work with your healthcare team to learn the cause of your pain with PD. They can provide treatments that offer relief and improve your quality of life.