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The neurological disorder, Parkinson’s Disease, arises when nerve cells in the basal ganglia area of the brain become damaged or die completely. These cells produce dopamine ­– a chemical that allows your brain to communicate with your body and function properly.

Decreased levels of dopamine have serious consequences. The most obvious signs of Parkinson’s are shaking movements throughout the body, muscle stiffness and difficulties with balance, coordination and movement. Many effects of the condition are found in the lower legs and feet.

Doctors don’t know what causes Parkinson’s disease and unfortunately, it can’t be cured. However, with the right help, it can certainly be managed.

These are the most common symptoms.

Muscle Spasms (dystonia), Cramping and Toe-Curling

Dystonia is a common aspect of Parkinson’s. Involuntary spasms in the lower legs cause the muscles to contract and shorten. This makes them uncomfortably tight, stiff and prone to cramping – an extremely painful and debilitating situation.

Dystonia also affects the structure of the foot by causing the toes to curl inward and remain in that position. Sometimes the big toe hyper-extends and sticks straight up. The foot may also be pulled inward at the ankle.

Muscle problems can also affect the Achilles tendon. This thick band of connective tissue runs from the calf muscle to the heel bone. If it’s too tight, it pulls the foot downwards into an unnatural position. If this happens, you’ll be walking on your tip toes rather than heel first, which makes it hard to balance properly.

Check Your Medication

For some people, dystonia can be caused or exacerbated by medications, so check with your doctor. It may be possible to change the dose or the actual medicine and this can ease cramps and spasms.

Problems with Walking

Muscle problems greatly affect your ability to walk and balance properly. Under normal circumstances, the heel is the first part of the foot to strike the ground. Then your foot lifts off again. Your toes are essential for balance, and they help to propel you forward – indeed, they are the last part of your foot to leave the ground.

However, when feet are forced into the wrong position, the ankle joints become very stiff and inflexible. Together with a shortened length of stride, this creates a flat-footed gait, which reduces the foot’s ability to absorb the impact of striking the ground. This lack of cushioning doesn’t bode well for the ankles, knees and lower legs.

Swelling in the Lower Legs (Oedema)

This is an indirect consequence of Parkinson’s disease for some people. Walking problems will inevitably force you to move less and sit down more. This isn’t good, as movement stimulates the leg muscles to contract – allowing blood to be pumped around the body.

Limited movement makes circulation sluggish and allows fluid to linger in the calves and ankles. This is uncomfortable and can lead to heart problems, strokes and clots.

Help and Support from Your Podiatrist

Dealing with Parkinson’s disease may feel like a daunting prospect but there’s no need to struggle alone. The experienced podiatrists at Feet By Pody can help in many ways.

  • Advise with the correct footwear to support and cushion your feet.
  • Exercises to ease stiff muscles and joints, strengthen arches and boost circulation.
  • Biomechanical assessment to identify problems with posture, balance and walking.
  • General maintenance – toenail trimming, removing hard skin, treatments for corns and other foot conditions, to keep you as comfy and healthy as possible.
  • Vascular assessment to monitor blood flow.

Talk to the friendly team at one of our London foot clinics.

Contact us today