The ABCs of Parkinson’s: It’s Not Just About Shaking

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

by Sherri Woodbridge |

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Sherri Journeying Through

The next letter in a series on the ABCs of Parkinson’s is “N.” This is because the disease is not just about shaking.

When the topic of Parkinson’s disease comes up, it’s often met with a misunderstanding of what it really is. People immediately think of someone who shakes, if indeed they know much about the disease at all. But that’s not what Parkinson’s is. It does entail tremors, or shaking, but it is so much more than that.

Parkinson’s is not just shaking in one or more of the extremities (hands, arms, legs, and feet). While shaking can occur in only one extremity, it also can happen with all of them. It can include other parts of the body such as the head, the neck, the “insides,” the eyelids, or the mouth.

But again, Parkinson’s is not just about shaking.

When someone sees a person flailing about as they are walking/shuffling down the street, they may assume the person may have had a bit too much to drink. This is not necessarily true. Parkinson’s may (and has been known to) take the appearance of a drunken sailor, but the flailing about is not PD. It is a side effect of the medications taken to cope with the disease. Sad, but true.

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Parkinson’s disease is unpredictable. PD is not a disease you can define other to say that it is ever-changing from one person to another. You may know someone with Parkinson’s, yet you will not find another who experiences the disease in the same way. There is nothing certain about the disease. It is not predictable. 

Most people do not, and cannot, understand this often misunderstood disease. They focus on the tremors or the dyskinesia (flailing about). They do not understand it may (or may not) entail other lesser-known symptoms such as depression, apathy, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome, drooling, and skin concerns. Other invisible symptoms can include sleep disorders, loss of smell, cognitive issues, moderate to extremely severe pain, dystonia, facial masking, visual and speech issues, mood changes, blood pressure irregularities, tripping, a shuffling gait, restless leg syndrome, and urinary dysfunctions, to name a few more. Yet, these still are not all of the symptoms.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are misunderstood because basically, they are not visible and therefore can’t be evidenced in most people who have PD.

We often do not believe in something we can’t see, diseases included. Many times we choose to believe a person is not struggling or suffering because we can’t see below the skin to where the real pain is occurring. That’s because Parkinson’s is not just about shaking. It’s so much more than that. 


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, Bionews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Sharon Loben Whitehead-van Loben Sels avatar

Sharon Loben Whitehead-van Loben Sels

SO VERY TRUE SHERRI! I would like to quote you on my Facebook page. My husband has PD and it has been referred to as the 'designer disease' as each person looks a bit different. Thank you for your article.

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Feel free to quote - thanks for asking!


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