Parkinson’s disease can cause pain in different body areas, including the legs. When it occurs, a doctor may recommend one or more treatment options to help.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder. It causes uncontrollable muscle movements as well as a variety of other potential symptoms. For some people, Parkinson’s can lead to leg pain.
People who experience pain due to Parkinson’s may find one or more treatment options can help. Treatments can include over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications and other therapies. Combining treatment approaches may help a person manage pain in their leg.
This article reviews the causes of leg pain associated with Parkinson’s and the treatment options available.
Parkinson’s affects the body in different ways, which can lead to pain and discomfort in different areas.
Healthcare professionals divide pain associated with Parkinson’s disease into five broad categories, including:
- Musculoskeletal: Pain that affects ligaments, muscles, bones, tendons, and nerves.
- Dystonic: This occurs from sustained twisting and cramping of muscles.
- Neuropathic/radicular: This occurs due to nerve damage that may occur anywhere between the spinal cord to where nerves reach the skin.
- Central pain: This pain occurs due to a malfunction in how the brain and spinal cord process sensations and pain.
- Akathisia: This refers to a feeling of restlessness or inability to stay still.
Any of these can cause pain in a person’s leg.
Pain relief medication comes in OTC and prescription forms. They may help a person find some relief from their leg pain.
Common OTC examples a person may consider using include acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Neither acetaminophen nor NSAIDs cause neurologic side effects. This often makes them an easy-to-tolerate option for leg pain in people living with Parkinson’s.
It is best for people with other medical conditions and those who take other medications to talk with a healthcare professional about short and long-term use of pain relief medications.
Acetaminophen and NSAIDs can cause mild to potentially severe side effects and interact with other medications.
Prescription medications can help treat different kinds of pain. A healthcare professional may make recommendations based on a person’s medical history, current medications, and the exact cause of their pain.
For example, they may prescribe pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, combined with codeine for musculoskeletal pain. Other opioids or opioid-like medications
A healthcare professional may also recommend and prescribe other medications, such as:
- gabapentin, an anticonvulsant
- duloxetine, an antidepressant
- pregabalin, an anticonvulsant
Prescription medications may relieve pain when OTC medications and other therapies are not enough. A healthcare professional may recommend them for long-term or severe pain.
Prescription medications can cause mild to severe side effects. It is best for a person to work with a healthcare professional to determine the benefits versus the risks and always check the labels of prescription drugs to learn more about side effects.
A healthcare professional can also help people determine the best medications for their condition.
Acupuncture is a type of complementary therapy. These are holistic approaches that may help some people find pain relief. However, only a small amount of evidence supports the use of acupuncture for Parkinson’s leg pain.
Acupuncture is generally noninvasive and likely will not cause complications or side effects. Though scientific data are generally lacking on the use of acupuncture in treating Parkinson’s disease, some people report that it helps them.
However, the study authors did not mention the use of acupuncture for pain related to Parkinson’s.
Acupuncture is generally safe and well-tolerated. A person may experience some discomfort from the needles practitioners use.
Exercise may help a person with pain associated with Parkinson’s disease and other possible issues, such as posture or balance.
Strengthening the leg muscles may provide relief from musculoskeletal pain. Many exercises can help with this. A person may find that even practising standing up from sitting down in a chair repeatedly can improve the strength of their legs.
Learn more about exercises to strengthen the thighs.
Leg pain associated with Parkinson’s disease may improve as a person strengthens their leg and back muscles.
Exercise may also help a person to:
- maintain better balance
- improve posture
- increase range of motion
- improve strength
- help with overall health and wellness
It is best to discuss changes in activity levels with a healthcare professional, particularly if a person has any other underlying health issues. A healthcare professional may also be able to suggest specific exercises for meeting certain goals.
All exercise has some risk of causing injury. Starting slowly and gradually building up activity levels can help prevent injury, along with stretching before and after.
Massage therapy may provide pain relief for people living with Parkinson’s disease.
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Massage therapy may help alleviate muscle and nerve pain.
Some evidence suggests it
Learn more about how regular massage may delay the progression of Parkinson’s symptoms.
Massage therapy is generally safe and not likely to cause complications. To reduce the risk of injury and get the most out of their care, it is best for people to use only licensed and experienced therapists.
Physical therapy can help provide a person with guided exercises and stretching to better target their pain. Limited, uncontrolled studies support using physical therapy to effectively relieve pain.
Learn more about how physical therapy may help with Parkinson’s.
Physical therapy is generally safe. A licensed provider works directly with the person and can provide specific exercises suited to them, which may help minimize risks.
Stretching is a type of exercise that focuses on lengthening the muscles. This may help improve a person with Parkinson’s range of motion, slow the tightening of muscles, and prevent injury during other forms of exercise.
People with Parkinson’s may experience tightened muscles, known as muscle stiffness or rigidity.
Stretching can lengthen and relax tightened muscles. It may also help improve posture, reduce pain, and increase a person’s range of motion.
Stretching is generally safe for most people and is very low impact. However, a person can reduce their risk of injury by stopping if they feel pain and avoiding jerky, bouncy, or bobbing motions when stretching.
It is best for a person to talk with a healthcare professional if they are living with Parkinson’s and notice new symptoms developing, such as pain in the legs.
The doctor may be able to help figure out the underlying cause and provide additional ideas for therapy to help address the pain.
Parkinson’s can cause leg pain to develop for various reasons related to musculoskeletal issues, nerve pain, and cramping.
If leg pain occurs, a person may find that one or more therapies, such as medications or physical therapy, may help alleviate or improve their symptoms.
A healthcare professional can help a person experiencing pain while living with Parkinson’s disease establish the cause and recommend appropriate treatments.