Your health questions answered: Is pain a part of Parkinson’s disease?

You ask. OHSU experts answer.

Q: I was once told that pain is not a part of Parkinson’s disease. Is that true?

A: Pain is a common symptom in people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and people with PD are more likely to have pain than those without PD.

86810406It is unclear what causes this increase of painful symptoms, however.

There are several theories including loss of dopamine or other neurotransmitters (natural chemicals) in the brain, alterations of nerves in the skin, or the general muscle stiffness and reduced movement caused by PD.

Pain in PD is commonly divided into five categories:

• musculoskeletal (inflammation of muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones as in arthritis)

• dystonic (an abnormal pulling or twisting of muscles)

• central (related to changes in the brain)

• akathitic (a restless or uncomfortable feeling)

• radicular/neuropathic (caused by damage to nerves in the back or limbs)

Due to the lack of understanding of the mechanisms of pain in PD there are no guidelines for the optimal way to treat it; however, there are many treatments that can be considered including physical therapy, optimizing PD medications, and using analgesics (medications that treat pain).

Treatment is individualized based on the type and location of the pain. If you suffer from pain, please talk to your neurologist about how they can help.




Keiran Tuck, M.B.B.S.
Fellow, OHSU Parkinson Center