Wobbly and Stone-faced: The Misunderstood Symptoms of Parkinson’s

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

by Sherri Woodbridge |

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Several years ago, I read an article about a man with Parkinson’s disease who was arrested by police in Surrey, England due to a misunderstanding surrounding his condition. 

He was sitting on a wall near a street and watching Olympic cyclists approach. Before he knew it, he was pulled down, handcuffed, arrested, and taken to the police station, where he was questioned for five hours. Surrey police were initially concerned because Mark Worsfold, the man in question, was not smiling, and police thought he should have been while observing the event.

You see, one symptom of Parkinson’s disease is facial masking, or what the Parkinson’s community refers to as a “masked” or “stone” face. Due to muscle stiffness and slowness in the face, patients such as Worsfold can appear disinterested, angry, sad, or void of any expression altogether.

Worsfold was eventually released, and the police apologized.  

Many are unaware that many Parkinson’s symptoms may be observed, but aren’t always indicative of an underlying condition.

For example, if you walk with a wobble or trip and fall, strangers may jump to the conclusion that you have had too much to drink. Losing your balance is another symptom of Parkinson’s disease, though it doesn’t occur in all patients. You spend your days stumbling from one place to another.

If people drive by while I am out front working in my garden, I often wonder if they think I am drunk. Many times, I lean forward and have to catch myself on a wall. I frequently bend down to trim flowers, but am unable to catch myself as I begin a slow-motion roll and land on the ground.

Fortunately, I can laugh at myself. Sometimes, I whimper. Most of us with Parkinson’s have to deal with being “wobbly” at some point or another. It comes with the disease. A cane, a mobility chair or seat, walking poles, etc. may help those of us who stumble around. Throw rugs are not safe for people with Parkinson’s, as they are easy to trip over. 

And that masked face — that face without a smile? Try buying a face mask with a smile printed on it. No one will know if you are smiling at them or sticking out your tongue underneath. I won’t tell.


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.


Richard Malmsheimer avatar

Richard Malmsheimer

Thank you. A good reminder.

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Glad you liked it and thanks so much for your comment!

Paula Prange avatar

Paula Prange

Sherri, I have a very cute wall plaque that says "When you stumble Make it part of the dance. It brings a smile to my face every time I see it. Thanks and have a good day.

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Paula - thanks so much for your comment! That quote is perfect!


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