This is Pdude’s simplified glossary of definitions of some common terms thrown around in the Parkinson’s community:
Akinesia – episodes of problems starting movement or “freezing”. Sometimes occurs after stopping and trying to restart walking. May also occur in tight spaces or in transition areas such as doorways or halls.
Bradykinesia – slowness of movement – often occurring with rigidity.
Dyskinesia – Involuntary movements similar to tics or twitches, or even dance like movements. In the case of Parkinson’s Disease, dyskinesia can happen: in the “off” periods when medication levels are decreasing, at high peak levels – when the brain is trying to regulate the L-Dopa (the medications), in breakthrough periods, or in those with Parkinson’s who have have been on medications for a lengthy period of time and may not have enough dopamine producing neurons to convert the medication adequately into dopamine. Dyskinesia is more annoying than it is harmful – but it can cause embarrassment and other adverse social consequences. It is often resolved by lowering the medication dosage or frequency (but doing so then allows the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s Disease come through). Many doctors have delayed treating Parkinson’s Disease with Levadopa containing medications due to fear that doing so will initiate the person having dyskinesia sooner, but recent studies suggest this is unwarranted and waiting may delay a potentially better quality of life due to the benefits of initiating Levadopa therapy early to allow better functioning.
Dystonia – This can best be described as cramps, aches, spasms, and abnormal posturing. The possible causes of dystonia have been attributed to factors such as genetics, muscle fatigue, and the brain trying to regulate itself (as in when levadopa levels fall, etc.). Dystonia can be a genetically inherited disorder itself even in the absence of Parkinson’s Disease. I think one could easily get “lost” talking about all the possible causes of dystonia or in trying to separate what is brain-related dystonia from what is muscle fatigue following a tremor or even involuntary muscle contraction. The bottom line is that dystonia involves pain, spasms and abnormal posturing. In the case of Parkinson’s Disease, some experts say that dystonia only happens on the most impacted side, but many people with Parkinson’s have reported dystonia happening on both sides of the body, or even an area of the non-impacted side, such as the opposing foot or leg. Common areas of dystonia include: arms, wrists, shoulders, neck, feet, arches, ankles, and back, but it has been reported in various other places including things like the chest muscles and abdomen. It can result in strange posturing such as contortions of the neck or limbs.
“On and Off” Periods – fluctuations in ability to perform tasks or to function (walking, moving, writing, etc.) that occurs with the fluctuations due to medication levels in the brain. The “on” periods are when medication levels are at their peak and the person is able to function better. The “off” periods may randomly occur as breakthrough periods or occur when the medications are wearing off, making functioning impaired.
PWP – An abbreviated term for “People with Parkinson’s”.
Rigidity – tightness and difficulty moving, with the muscle-tone being stiff and inflexible.
Tremor – involuntary shaking or back-and-forth movement. Tremor commonly starts in either a thumb, finger, hand, or arm. In PD, tremor also often starts on one-side of the body and then can progress over time to the other side. Parkinson’s related tremor often begins as a resting tremor or occurs when the hand is in a certain posture. In early Parkinson’s, it is often not continuous (not all the time and may come and go). Early tremor may disappear when one is holding or gripping something or by changing postures. It is often made worse by, or becomes harder to control during times of stress.
* I am not a doctor or medical professional. I admit these are perhaps overly simplified definitions and are not intended to constitute official medical descriptions, nor substitute for professional descriptions from a physician. I will try to update or add to this list as time allows.