What Is Akinesia?

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"Akinesia" means "lack of movement." It is a condition in which you have an inability to perform certain movements due to problems in the parts of the nervous system that control movement.

Akinesia is sometimes referred to as “freezing” because it causes immobility in certain parts of the body or certain muscles. For example, someone with akinesia may have a temporarily frozen facial expression or freezing of gait (the way a person walks). 

This article talks about the meaning of akinesia, what it looks like, what its causes are, and how it can be managed to improve quality of life.

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Types of Akinesia

Many types of movement disorders can cause increased, decreased, or slow movements. Problems with movement include:

  • Akinesia: This is strictly defined as the absence of movement. It means that someone wouldn’t be able to make a movement—like lifting their arms—even if they tried. 
  • Bradykinesia: This is a decrease in movement or slowness of movement. It would show up as general slowness in physical actions, such as buttoning a shirt.
  • Hypokinesia: This is a decreased magnitude of movement. It shows up as movements that aren’t as big as they normally are. Hypokinesia is related to akinesia and bradykinesia.

Akinesia Symptoms

Akinesia involves a variety of movement problems, including:

  • Freezing
  • Slow movement
  • Fatigue with repetitive movements

Akinesia can appear as movements that are so small and slow that they cannot be seen, or the movement takes a very long time to make. 

One of the most common signs of akinesia is freezing, the inability to move one or more parts of the body, such as muscles in the face, hands, or legs.

For example, someone with akinesia may have a temporary frozen facial expression. Someone with akinesia may also experience gait freezing, in which there is a series of short, temporary episodes of not being able to move the feet to walk. This will look as if the person is stuck, despite their intention to walk.


There is no single cause of akinesia. A variety of conditions can affect parts of the nervous system that may then result in movement problems. 

In adults, akinesia may be caused by:

Akinesia is usually a symptom of the late stages of these conditions. In other words, as these diseases progress, movement challenges may worsen from bradykinesia to akinesia. 

In addition, a lack of adequate dopamine can make movement problems worse. While dopamine is often thought of as one of the “happy” chemicals, it has many other functions, one of which involves voluntary movement. Thus, inadequate dopamine due to nervous system issues can lead to akinesia.  


Akinesia can be diagnosed through a motor exam, which looks for things like:

  • Coordination
  • Involuntary movements
  • Tremors

A motor exam is often a part of a neurological exam, which will also involve the assessment of nerve function.

When diagnosing akinesia, a neurologist or other healthcare provider may ask the patient to do certain movements—like walking—to see if there is a lack of voluntary movement, which is a hallmark of akinesia.

Because akinesia can be a symptom of several conditions, other exams and tests may need to be done in addition to a motor exam to help narrow down the underlying cause of akinesia.


Treatment of akinesia depends on the underlying cause and then managing the symptoms of that underlying condition. For example, if akinesia is present as a result of advanced Parkinson’s disease, then treating Parkinson’s disease is the most appropriate next step.

Treating akinesia is more about management of symptoms; there is no cure. Once the underlying cause has been identified, treatment for akinesia may include:

  • Prescription drugs to help improve dopamine release
  • Surgical therapy, such as deep brain stimulation to improve dopamine release
  • Progressive resistance exercises to improve movements like walking
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever medications to help with muscle and nerve pain


As akinesia is often a symptom of advanced conditions, like Parkinson’s disease, it may progress over time. For example, it may start as bradykinesia—in which movements are slow but doable—and advance to akinesia—in which movements are halted.

By treating the underlying cause, symptoms of akinesia will improve over time.


Dealing with akinesia can significantly impact your quality of life.

Muscle and nerve pain, as well as not being able to make certain movements, can make daily life difficult and tiresome. While there may not be a cure for akinesia, it can be managed. Managing akinesia through treatment of the underlying condition can help make daily activities easier and more enjoyable.


Akinesia is a condition in which there is an inability to make voluntary movements. One example is a freezing gait.

Akinesia is a symptom of a variety of conditions, notably advanced Parkinson’s disease. There is no cure for akinesia, but it can be managed with medications, surgical therapy, and exercise therapy.

A Word From Verywell

Not being able to make certain movements due to akinesia can be extremely frustrating and debilitating. It may feel like you have no control over your own body sometimes.

Dealing with akinesia can make daily life extremely difficult, including completing daily activities or interacting with other people. Despite no cure, akinesia can be helped ny treating the underlying condition. While akinesia may never completely go away, how you cope with it can be improved over time with the right help.

Talk with your healthcare provider if you have akinesia and want to explore different treatment options.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Movement disorders.

  2. Cubo E, Goetz CG. Akinesia. In: encyclopedia of the neurological sciences. Elsevier; 2014:102. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-385157-4.00002-6

  3. American Parkinson Disease Association. Freezing of gait in Parkinson's disease.

  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Neurological exam.

  5. MedlinePlus. Parkinson disease.

By Emily Brown, MPH
Emily is a health communication consultant, writer, and editor at EVR Creative, specializing in public health research and health promotion. With a scientific background and a passion for creative writing, her work illustrates the value of evidence-based information and creativity in advancing public health.