Bradykinesia refers to slowness of movement. It is often associated with Parkinson’s disease, which causes tremors, stiffness, and difficulty walking.
The condition may also occur after stroke, head injury, multiple sclerosis, or other neurological disorders.
Bradykinesia can also be due to a side effect of medications or a symptom of other neurological problems. It is associated with akinesia, which occurs when a person has difficulty performing voluntary movements.
What is bradykinesia?
Bradykinesia is characterized by slow or difficult body movements.
There are different degrees of bradykinesia. Everyday movements, such as raising arms or legs, take much longer than before.
Parkinson’s disease is the main cause of bradykinesia. As the disease progresses, a person’s ability to move and react quickly decreases.
In addition to slow movements and reflexes, a person may have:
- Motionless muscles.
- Limited facial expression.
- A slow walk, dragging your feet.
- Difficulty with repetitive tasks.
- Difficulty taking care of oneself and performing daily activities.
People with Parkinson’s disease may also have speech difficulties. As the disease progresses, speech becomes weaker and much more difficult to understand.
Diagnosis of bradykinesia
There is a specific test used to diagnose bradykinesia.
During the test, a person taps the keyboard with their fingers for one minute, alternating between them.
A doctor then notes the test to help determine the diagnosis. The test score is based on:
- the number of correctly hit keys
- the number of incorrectly typed keys
- the time to hit the keys
- the time between each keystroke
This test is considered a very reliable tool. The results are used to assess whether or not a person has bradykinesia and the severity of Parkinson’s disease.
Light exercise, such as swimming, may be recommended to relieve bradykinesia.
In many cases, it is possible to successfully treat some of the symptoms associated with bradykinesia.
A doctor may first recommend that a person try lifestyle changes to ease symptoms.
A person can usually see positive results when making these changes. However, he/she should consult their doctor before changing their daily routine.
Some changes to discuss with a doctor include:
- a healthier diet
- more walking
- preventive measures to avoid falling, such as using a cane or walker
- dietary fiber intake
Many doctors also recommend medication in combination with lifestyle changes. A doctor is likely to prescribe a drug that increases the level of dopamine in the body.
The production of dopamine can be influenced by:
- MAO-B inhibitors
- dopamine agonists
A doctor often has to try several medications before finding the best one.
However, most drugs lose their effectiveness over time. This means that a doctor must change medications or doses frequently to help a person achieve the desired results.
Surgery, for example deep brain stimulation, is possible for some people.
The causes of bradykinesia
Aside from Parkinson’s disease, certain medications can cause bradykinesia.
Antipsychotic drugs and other drugs used to treat neurological disorders cause a person to experience symptoms of bradykinesia.
Scientists don’t know why this happens, as there isn’t enough research available to determine the underlying cause.