Foot Problems Are Challenging for My Sister, Who Has Parkinson’s
Many of us have likely said, “Oh, my aching feet,” especially after a long walk, run, or hike. As we age, our strength and agility decrease, increasing our chances of experiencing muscle soreness and stiffness.
For people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), balance, walking, and gait issues are usually significant because of the disease’s motor effects. But people with PD may also experience dystonia, or involuntary muscle contractions, which can result in painful cramping — both in the feet and in other parts of the body.
Foot problems may also arise due to peripheral neuropathy, or damage to the nerves outside of the central nervous system. As Parkinson’s News Today‘s Joana Carvalho, PhD, noted in a 2020 article, “Several studies have shown the incidence of peripheral neuropathy is higher among patients with Parkinson’s than in people from the general population.” The condition can cause pain, numbness, weakness, or increased temperature sensitivity in a person’s extremities, including the feet.
While these issues can be early signs of PD, they can also occur at any stage of the disease.
My sister Bev, who is currently diagnosed with stage 3 PD, has problems with walking and balance, but she also deals with foot cramping, occasional spasms, and some curling in her toes. Of course, this makes walking even harder for her.
Bev has neuropathy in her hands, but not her feet. However, her physician told her that this is most likely a side effect of the chemotherapy she received while being treated for colon cancer.
Another foot problem noted by fellow Parkinson’s News Today columnist Dr. C is foot drag, or foot drop, which refers to difficulty lifting the front part of the foot. In 2018, Dr. C wrote, “My attention is given to the footwear I purchase, limiting my walking during deep fatigue, and carefully watching my feet when changing surface levels (such as a curb on sidewalks).”
Footwear can be modified specifically for those with foot, balance, or walking problems, as I wrote about in February. Bev wears tennis shoes with thick soles and with no laces so that she can slip them on easily. She also pays close attention when walking, especially on sidewalks or uneven surfaces.
Bev sees a podiatrist and does foot exercises and stretches recommended by her physical therapist to help reduce pain, stiffness, and toe curling. The Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s has provided several helpful ankle and foot exercises that can be done while sitting or standing.
Foot problems can be particularly challenging for those with PD, and sometimes medications may be needed to help manage neuropathy or other issues. But with patience, exercise, and determination, Parkinson’s patients can make great strides (pun intended!).
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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.