Bradykinesia is defined by slow movement and an impaired ability to move the body swiftly on command. It’s most commonly a symptom of Parkinson’s disease or a side effect of medications. It is one of the main symptoms doctors will look for when diagnosing Parkinson’s.
The symptoms of bradykinesia include unusually slow movements. However, there are other symptoms that are common with the condition. These symptoms include:
- shuffling when walking
- dragging one or both feet when walking
- having little or no facial expressions
- freezing — muscle reactions may slow to the point that the muscles become immobile, or freeze, for a period of time
- difficulty with tasks that are repetitive in nature, like tapping fingers or clapping hands
- difficulty getting ready each day (e.g., buttoning clothes, brushing teeth, styling hair)
Bradykinesia is also what causes those with Parkinson’s to lose their ability to speak clearly. Your voice will become softer and softer over time, and your words will become more difficult to understand clearly.
The test used for bradykinesia is called the bradykinesia akinesia incoordination test, also known as the B.R.A.I.N. test.
During this test, you are asked to tap keys quickly on a keyboard with alternating fingers for one minute. Your scores on the test will determine your diagnosis. The scores include the number of correct keys hit, the number of wrong keys hit, the time it takes to hit the keys, and the time that lapses between hitting each key.
This test is considered to be reliable for telling doctors what stage of Parkinson’s you are in and if you have bradykinesia. There is not a set test yet to initially diagnose Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s and its symptoms cannot be cured. However, the symptoms can be managed somewhat with medications. The most helpful medications for bradykinesia are those that increase dopamine levels. Some of the medications that use dopamine or act just like dopamine to get the same reaction are:
- dopamine agonists
- MAO-B inhibitors
There are a number of other medications your doctor can try until you find the right one for you. However, finding the right medication will be a constant challenge because these types of medications become less effective over time. Your doctor will monitor you to adjust the dosage or change medications as needed.
There is also a surgical procedure known as deep brain stimulation that may be used for certain people living with Parkinson’s. This treatment involves surgically placing electrodes into specific locations in your brain. Once the electrodes are in place, you will have electrical impulses sent to stimulate the brain at the electrode sites. This treatment is normally reserved for those with severe Parkinson’s who do not respond well to traditional medications.
Lifestyle remedies for symptom management
Whether you are taking medications or not, there are lifestyle changes and steps you can add at home as part of your treatment plan. However, you should be sure to talk to your doctor before adding anything to your Parkinson’s treatment plan. Anything that helps to treat your Parkinson’s disease will also help with your bradykinesia.
Some of these lifestyle or home treatments include:
- eating a healthy diet
- eating a diet high in fiber
- doing physical therapy with exercises that increase your strength, balance, and flexibility
- taking the steps needed to help avoid falling
Bradykinesia often occurs as a side effect of certain drugs (such as antipsychotics) or Parkinson’s. However, the specific cause is not known.
One study suggests that bradykinesia may be caused by basal ganglia output failure. Another study looked at the role of dopamine in people with bradykinesia. Both studies gave compelling evidence to support their findings, but more research will have to be done before determining an exact cause.
A cure for Parkinson’s Disease or its symptoms, which includes bradykinesia, has not yet been found. However, there are medications, treatments, and lifestyle changes that will help you manage it. You should talk to your doctor regularly and let them know of any changes you or those around you notice. You should always keep your doctor updated on the effectiveness of your current medication.