Neurology / Neuroscience

What you should know about bradykinesia

Bradykinesia is a medical term used to describe slow movement or an inability to move the body quickly on demand.

While it can happen with other conditions, it is most often associated with Parkinson’s disease and is one of the main symptoms doctors use to diagnose the disease.

Bradykinesia can also be a side effect of medications or a symptom of other neurological issues.

Fast facts on bradykinesia:

  • The most obvious symptom is unusually slow movements and reflexes.
  • Doctors may try several different treatment options for a person diagnosed with the disease.
  • Unfortunately, bradykinesia and other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease have no known cure.

What is bradykinesia?

closeup of hands doctor comforting patient
Bradykinesia is slow or difficult body movements that are often caused by Parkinson’s disease.

The condition is essentially slow or difficult body movement.

There are varying degrees of bradykinesia, and they can often mean everyday movements, such as lifting arms or legs, take much longer.

Parkinson’s disease is the main cause of bradykinesia. As Parkinson’s progresses through its stages, a person’s ability to move and respond quickly diminishes.


Symptoms

In addition to slow movements and reflexes, a person may experience:

  • immobile or frozen muscles
  • limited facial expressions
  • a shuffling walk
  • difficulty with repetitive tasks
  • trouble completing self-care and daily activities
  • dragging a foot while walking

People with Parkinson’s may also notice an inability to speak clearly. As the disease progresses, speech becomes softer and much harder for others to understand.

Diagnosis

There is a specific test used to diagnose bradykinesia. The test is called the bradykinesia akinesia incoordination test or B.R.A.I.N.

During the test, a person does a series of rapid taps on a keyboard with alternating fingers for one minute.

A doctor then scores the test to help determine the diagnosis. The test score is based on:

  • the number of correct keys hit
  • the number of wrong keys tapped
  • how long it takes to hit the keys
  • the time separating each keystroke

The B.R.A.I.N. test is considered a very reliable tool for doctors to use. The results are used to help determine if someone has bradykinesia and the stage of Parkinson’s they have reached.


Treatment

senior woman exercising in a pool
Light exercise, such as swimming, may be recommended to relieve bradykinesia.

In many cases, it is possible to treat successfully some of the symptoms associated with bradykinesia.

A doctor may first recommend that a person tries lifestyle changes to help alleviate symptoms.

A person can usually see some positive results when making these basic changes. However, it is important for them to consult their doctor before making alterations to their daily routine.

Some changes to talk to a doctor about can include:

  • eating a more healthful diet
  • walking more
  • swimming
  • precautionary steps to avoid falling, such as using a cane or walker
  • starting physical therapy
  • increasing fiber in the diet

Many doctors also recommend medication in conjunction with lifestyle treatments. A doctor is likely to prescribe a medication that increases the body’s dopamine level.

Dopamine can be found in:

  • carbidopa-levodopa
  • MAO-B inhibitors
  • dopamine agonists

The treatment process often involves a lot of trial and error. A doctor must often try several drugs before finding one that works for an individual.

To make it even more difficult, most of the drugs lose their effectiveness over time. This means that a doctor must frequently change drugs or the doses to help a person achieve their desired results.

There is also a surgical procedure available for some people. A doctor may recommend a person tries deep brain stimulation.

This procedure involves surgically implanting electrodes into the brain. These electrodes are used to send signals to the brain, which improve movement speed and timing. This surgery is usually performed on people who have not responded well to medication.

Causes

Aside from Parkinson’s disease, some medications can cause bradykinesia.

Antipsychotics and other drugs used to treat neurological conditions are common medications that can cause a person to experience symptoms of bradykinesia.

Scientists are not sure why this happens, as not enough research is available to determine the underlying cause.


Takeaway

older couple in bedroom
Lifestyle changes and aids can help a person manage bradykinesia.

There is no cure for bradykinesia. There are scientists who are researching treatments and cures for Parkinson’s and bradykinesia, and this gives hope that a cure will be discovered eventually.

Lifestyle changes, medications, and, in some cases, surgery are all effective methods to help treat symptoms of the disorder.

A doctor or physical therapist is an excellent resource to develop an at-home treatment plan to manage symptoms.

Crucially, a person should consult their doctor before making any changes to their treatment plan, even small ones.

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