Motor Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

Physicians considering a Parkinson's disease diagnosis look for evidence of the cardinal signs of Parkinson's or key features of the disease.


Typically referred to as motor symptoms, these symptoms typically involve a loss of motor coordination or lead to restricted mobility:

While each patient's symptoms may manifest themselves differently, early symptoms of Parkinson's can include:

  • Tremor (when limb is at rest)
  • Bradykinesia (slowness)
  • Rigidity (stiffness)
  • Postural instability (balance problems)
IMPORTANT: Not every person will have every motor symptom, and not every person will experience the same severity of symptoms.


The cardinal signs listed above often contribute to an overall muscle rigidity and/or slowness, which can present in different people in different ways and may include:

  • Decreased arm swing when walking
  • Dystonia: unusual and painful muscle contractions in the foot, ankle, shoulder (may lead physician to consider conditions such as bursitis or carpel tunnel, especially in a younger person)
  • Fatigue: a particularly difficult symptom for younger people who may be trying to juggle the demands of family, career, etc.
  • Masked face: restriction of facial expression causing person to look angry, depressed, or uninterested
  • Slow or soft speech: may be noticeable to friends or family but not to the person with PD
  • Decline in fine motor skills: difficulty with using utensils, buttoning clothes, etc.
  • Micrographia: small, cramped handwriting
  • Freezing: Temporary, involuntary inability to move