Coping With Freezing in Parkinson's Disease

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Almost half of the population of people with Parkinson's Disease experience a sudden, temporary inability to move at all known as "freezing." Freezing is most common in people with mid-stage to advanced Parkinson's disease. Freezing can feel like your feet are stuck in place, or it may be difficult to get up from a chair. Freezing most often affects the legs but can also affect other parts of the body or your speech.


The cause of freezing is unknown. Freezing mostly happens when you are having an “off” period or when it is time for your next dose of dopaminergic medication. Although freezing episodes can happen at any time, they happen more often when you are first beginning to move. Freezing episodes are most common during these circumstances: walking through doorways, turning a corner, turning around, or stepping from one type of surface to another, for example from tile to carpet. Multi-tasking, stopping or slowing down while walking can also cause freezing.


The unpredictability of freezing creates a danger of falling. In addition, sometimes friends or family try to force you to move, which can cause you to lose your balance and fall.

How to Manage Freezing Episodes

A doctor may be able to adjust your treatment to help with freezing episodes. A physical therapist trained in Parkinson’s disease can help you learn how to reduce your risk of falling. An occupational therapist can help you to lower the risk of falls in your home.

Tips to Get Moving Again

Here are some tricks from the National Parkinson Foundation to help make a freezing episode better:

  • Be aware of freezing triggers and prepare strategies in advance.
  • March or "goose step" (swing the leg high and parallel to the ground with the knees locked).
  • Shift the weight of your body from one leg to another.
  • Listen to music and step with the rhythm
  • Hum, sing, or count.
  • Imagine a line to step over or focus on a target on the floor to step on.
  • Use a mobile laser device to create a line in front of you to step over.
  • Turn by walking half a circle or square instead of by a pivot turn.

Help From Friends or Family

If you are a friend or family member of a person who is experiencing a freezing episode you should:

  • Remain calm. Do not rush or push the individual.
  • Wait patiently for several seconds to see if the episode passes.
  • If the person cannot move, try placing your foot perpendicular to the person and asking them to step over it.
  • Help rock the person from side to side.
  • Encourage the individual to try marching or counting.
  • Ask the doctor about physical therapy and/or occupational therapy.
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Article Sources

  • "Freezing" and Parkinson's. National Parkinson Foundation.