Parkinson’s Disease and Muscle Rigidity

Muscle rigidity (also known as muscle stiffness) is one of the four cardinal symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and is often one of the chief complaints of patients with PD. Muscle rigidity can have an effect on a patient’s ability to complete daily activities including getting dress, brushing their teeth, or preparing a meal because it often leaves the patient feeling “weak” or “fatigued.” However, flexibility programs are often not completed or considered a typical part of exercise for older adults but it is an extremely important part to Parkinson’s motor symptom management.

Basic principles of managing rigidity include:

  • Incorporating a flexibility program such as Tai Chi or Yoga
  • Simple and basic upper body, lower body and trunk stretching program
  • Implementing a stretching or flexibility program at least one time a day
  • Use high amplitude movements and movement enhancement strategies to combat muscle rigidity during functional tasks
  • Follow up with an Occupational Therapist or Physical Therapist for detailed and specific flexibility and muscle rigidity management


Completed in part by: Darcy Loveland, OTS

About the Author


Heather Simpson, OTR/L

Heather Simpson graduated with a B.S. in Exercise and Sport Science with a minor in Early Education from the University of Florida in 2007. Following…

Read all articles by Heather Simpson, OTR/L