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Parkinson's Disease and Freezing

Overview

In Parkinson's disease, freezing (sometimes called motor block) 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 (most common), at a line on the floor, or in crowds. It may be more likely to occur if you are anxious or under stress.

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. Specially trained dogs and special devices are available that can help you if freezing is a severe or frequent problem.

What medicines are used to treat freezing?

Apomorphine (Apokyn) is a fast-acting dopamine agonist that seems to be helpful in treating freezing associated with Parkinson's disease. Apomorphine can be injected under the skin when muscles become "frozen." This medicine is best taken with an anti-nausea drug to prevent side effects of severe nausea and vomiting.

Changing a person's levodopa dosage may improve freezing. But this does not work in all cases.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: December 13, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
G. Frederick Wooten MD - Neurology

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