Looking back, my first symptom of Parkinson’s Disease that warranted my attention was rigidity. Just like all the rest of my collection of symptoms that would unfold over time, I brushed it off as some arthritis – which I in turn attributed to wear and tear on my body from my years in martial arts, specifically Judo – a sport where I managed to climb through the ranks and in the process of rising to be a teacher in the art, had numerous times of being thrown to the ground and landed on (as well as my throwing and pinning others). There were many times my head would bang against the ground or against someone else.
I remember about three or more years ago I noticed difficulty getting out of bed or after getting up from a chair with feeling like I was the Tin Man. My wife said it was normal – given that I was in my forties and she noticed she also was developing some morning stiffness. Coworkers also stated that stiffness from arising from bed or from getting out of a chair was all ” just part of getting older”. My stiffness really seemed to last for a long time and it progressed. As time went on, I often would develop a limp after walking for a while. Sometimes I would be fine, but other times, I would have difficulty moving around. As my feet and legs (and sometimes shoulder, neck, and back) decided to take turns acting up, I collected some diagnostic possibilities from the “experts”, such as: planter fasciitis, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, and psoriatic arthritis. Sometimes my joints, back and my neck would ache at night – making for poor sleep (not to mention the sleep disturbances caused by acid reflux bouts and cramps).
Earlier this year, I eliminated gluten from my diet and my joint pain went away – I thought I had solved all my problems (I am gluten sensitive) – until a tremor and some dexterity issues surfaced.
It is possible that the rigidity had been there years before I really noticed it. Ten or so years ago, I was constantly informed (after I first started Judo) how very stiff that I was. I also noticed that my right arm was becoming harder to raise above my head – my shoulder would lock.
This past year, I noticed that when I twisted my right wrist while tightening the muscle, it did a sort of ratchet-like action – granted that in daily life though, I will not need to flex and tighten my right wrist and turn it – but it was kind of interestingly weird.
I had seen enough doctors who attributed my stiffness to arthritis and other conditions that I mentioned above and therefore, I felt destined to carry on with life in spite of it. Even when I developed a slight tremor in my right hand, I wasn’t entirely motivated to see yet another quack. However, when I noticed my dexterity was suffering, I felt compelled to once again get checked out. I kept hitting the wrong keys when typing. I would sometimes get locked out of computer programs for having entered my password too many times. I also felt like a video game controller or computer mouse that was uncalibrated, it seemed like my brain was not adequately communicating with my fingers. After getting the Parkinson’s diagnosis, I felt angry at all the doctors that I had seen in the past that missed the diagnosis, but my current neurologist reminded me that they didn’t have special training in movement disorders and often do not look for these things in people under the age of 60, much less under the age of 50.
I would like to tell you now that I am medicated that the rigidity was a thing of the past – that the medicines “fixed” it, but that would be a lie. The medication helps – and sometimes – it works so well that I can enjoy life and “forget” that I have Parkinson’s.
Thanks for listening, keep on!