Rigidity, also described as stiffness, is when muscles become inflexible or stiff. Muscles become rigid because they lose the ability to relax or stretch, which can feel uncomfortable and, in some cases, cause pain. Rigidity found in Parkinson's patients usually appears first on one side and spreads to both sides over time. It can also be found in other conditions related to normal aging or arthritis.
Just like rigidity can be experienced in muscles, it can also be experienced in joints, such as the elbow, shoulder, or knee. It can impact sleep quality and overall comfort, especially when walking that can increase the risk of falling.
Tips for Managing Rigidity
Medications may help, but exercise and movement seem to be the best therapy when it comes to minimizing rigidity and discomfort. With rigidity, it's important to move frequently every day. Physical Therapists can help you develop a program that provides daily activities to help you focus on intentional exercise to reduce rigidity. By focusing on the size rather than the frequency of your steps, you may find yourself able to get to your destination better. Also, by retraining your brain to land with your heel first instead of the ball of your foot, you may reduce common rigidity symptoms.
The important thing to remember with exercise is that it is important to change it up so that you are consistently using and strengthening different muscles. Choosing different activities that you can do in one week can help physically, but also bring greater joy.
Tracking your steps may also help you keep goal oriented to make sure you are hitting your daily marks with exercise. Joining a movement class based on the activities you like can make the overall journey of exercising more fun.
Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson's. Every Victory Counts, Your Go-To Resource of Essential Information for Living Well with Parkinson's. Page 43. "Manual." Sixth Edition, 2021.