Secondary Motor Symptoms of Parkinson's

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2022

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a long-term (chronic) brain and nerve (neurological) disorder. PD affects movement (motor) functions as well as other (non-motor) body functions. PD is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time.1

There are 4 primary (main) motor symptoms of PD:1

  • Tremor
  • Rigidity
  • Balance problems (postural instability)
  • Slower movement (bradykinesia)

People with PD may also have various secondary (additional) motor symptoms. These symptoms vary from person to person. Some people with PD do not get secondary motor symptoms.1

Secondary motor symptoms

Secondary motor symptoms of PD include:1-4

Akathisia – This is a feeling of restlessness and inability to sit still. Akathisia often makes people with PD feel agitated and uncomfortable.

Dyskinesia – This is an uncontrolled movement disorder. It can cause twisting and writhing movements. These movements can be disruptive and embarrassing.

Dystonia – This condition causes the muscles to contract painfully and abnormally. This can lead to abnormal postures, difficulty speaking, and difficulty swallowing.

Swallowing problems – This occurs when the muscles used for swallowing are affected by PD. This can lead to difficulty swallowing food and liquids, which can cause choking or pneumonia.

Increased risk of falls – People with PD are at a higher risk of falling because of problems with balance and coordination. This can lead to severe injuries.

Why does PD cause motor symptoms?

The cause of PD is still unknown. But experts think that the disease is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.1

The primary motor symptoms of PD are caused by the death of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that helps control movement. When there are not enough dopamine-producing cells, the brain cannot properly send messages to the muscles that control movement. This leads to PD symptoms.1


There is no cure for Parkinson's disease. But various therapies can help manage the symptoms. Options include:1,5

  • Drugs
  • Surgery (deep brain stimulation or DBS)
  • Alternative or complementary medicine

Usually, people with Parkinson's disease begin taking medicines to manage their movement symptoms. PD treatment varies, depending on the person's needs. Some of the most popular therapies for PD include:5

  • Levodopa (administered with carbidopa)
  • Dopamine agonists
  • Anticholinergics
  • Amantadine
  • Monoamine oxidase-B (MAO-B) inhibitors
  • DBS
  • Stress reduction
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Exercise

The secondary motor symptoms of PD can be very challenging and affect a person's quality of life. It is essential to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. There are treatments available that can help lessen their impact.

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