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Understanding Parkinson's disease


Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

  • Tremor

  • Stiffness and rigidity

  • Slowness of movement

  • Impaired balance and coordination

  • Depression and emotional changes

  • Pain

  • Memory Loss/slow thinking

  • Problems swallowing/chewing

  • Freezing

  • Changes in speech

  • Impaired sense of smell

  • Urinary problems/constipation

  • Difficulty sleeping changes in facial expression

  • Oily/dry skin

  • Changes in handwriting

Chart with general symptoms of Parkinson's disease
Graphic showing Dopamine neuro-transmission

Got Dopamine?

Dopamine deficiency can be the result of a dysfunction in dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons (insufficient dopamine production), or problems in one of the three chemical transport pathways, primarily the Nigrostriatal Pathway (dopamine doesn’t arrive to its intended destination in the basal ganglia).   Whichever the issue, low dopamine levels bring about the symptoms of PD. 

Parkinson’s disease is physically expressed as, but not limited to, faulty gait patterns, stiffness and rigidity, tremor, and postural instability.  These corrupted motor symptoms can also be accompanied by cognitive deterioration as well, such as mood imbalances, faulty sleep patterns, migraines, and spatio-temporal disorders among others.  Both motor and cognitive decline are related to a loss of dopamine (DA) due to the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons [17].  The disease is extremely diverse and affects individuals to varying degrees. Symptoms vary from person to person, and symptoms can come on quickly or gradually.  

Due to the progressive and presently incurable nature of the disease, focus must be on ways to retard progression of this debilitating condition, and secure the best quality of life (QoL) possible. While there are many factors that are beyond a patient’s control, there is one particular area in which PD sufferers have complete control, that is physical exercise.  Research studies indicate a general consensus about improvements in both kinematics and quality-of-life in patients with PD as the result of physical exercise [10].  Further, there exists abundant scientific research and statistical analysis providing evidence that exercise is recognized as an alternative therapy to improve motor function, neuro-plasticity, and cognitive function in people with PD [24].

by: Cecilia Pulido



Click the images to learn more about the Neuroscience behind Parkinson's disease in under 3 minutes. Search for videos like these and more online.

Actual dopamine neurotransmitter


Graphic of substantia nigrae

Substantia Nigra

Graphic of basal ganglia in the brain

Basal Ganglia

Dopa, SN, BG
Stages of PD


Stage 1

  • signs & symptoms appear on only one side of the body

  • Symptoms are mild

  • Symptoms may be inconvenient, but they are not disabling

  • Usually a tremor is present in only one limb

  • Friends and other loved ones notice changes in posture, movement, and facial expressions


Stage 2

  • Symptoms appear on both sides

  • Symptoms cause minimal disability

  • Posture and gait are affected


Stage 3

  • Body movements are slowed significantly

  • Symptoms cause moderate to severe problems with normal functioning

Stage 4

  • Symptoms are severe

  • The individual can still walk, but only to a limited extent

  • The patient experiences rigidity and slowness of movement

  • One is no longer able to live alone

Stage 5

  • Debilitation renders patient to be confined to bed or wheelchair**


        **Early self help and drug therapy may delay this stage to very late in the disease, or even prevent it altogether.

Stages of Parkinson’s Disease

Exercise program focus relative to disease stage 

Exer program

early          MILD          late

early      MODERATE      late


Chart of symptoms, exercises, and exercises per stage of Parkinson's disease
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