Parkinson's disease and back pain: the link (explained)

back pain and parkinson

There are different reasons that can cause back pain. It can be linked to bad postures just as it can follow osteoarthritis, herniated disc or a lumbago. THE back pain may also be associated with Parkinson's disease. It is a very common neurodegenerative disease in people between the ages of 55 and 65. In this article, discover the link between Parkinson's disease and back pain.

Definition of Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease reflects a degeneration of dopamine neurons. It's about a progressive and irreversible destruction. This is why it is classified in the category of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease.

As a reminder, dopaminergic neurons are nerve cells located in the brain stem, in the substantia nigra of the brain. They ensure the production of dopamine. The latter is a chemical substance that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. This is also involved in attention, pleasure, motivation, sleep, cognition, making movements… This chemical substance is sometimes called “pleasure hormone” or “motivation hormone”.

Parkinson's disease is a chronic disease. It evolves slowly and for a long time. Over time, it worsens until it affects the patient's quality of life. However, it is possible to alleviate the symptoms and slow the progression of the pathology with appropriate treatment.

The causes of Parkinson's disease

The cause of this neurodegenerative disease is often unknown. Through scientific research, some risk factors have nevertheless been identified.

  • 5% of cases of degeneration of neurons dopaminergic are associated with factors genetic. 13 genes can cause this disease. In case of genetic predisposition, this disease can affect people under 45 years old.
  • Other cases may be related to factors environmental, some of which are related to theEthnicity or presence of motor complications, sleep disorders or signs of depression in the subject. It also seems that this disease is more common in men than in women.

What are the symptoms of this neurodegenerative disease?


The signs of Parkinson's disease begin to appear after half of the nerve cells have disappeared. Different symptoms may appear, they may vary from patient to patient. The same is true for their intensity.

The symptoms of this pathology are initially unilateral. In other words, they only appear in one side of the body. It is only during the course of the disease that they become bilateral. Nevertheless, they still remain more pronounced on one side.


Tremors are among the first symptoms of this disease. This concerns approximately 70% of cases. In 30% of cases, patients do not suffer from any tremor.

These are rhythmic tremors that the patient cannot control. They mainly affect the hands or arms, then the head and finally the legs; and sometimes the chin and lips. They usually occur under stress or at rest.

It should be noted that the tremors which appear with the action do not correspond to a sign of this neurodegenerative disease. The tremors only appear when the muscles are completely relaxed and stop when there is movement.


Hypertonia is also a very common symptom of permanent destruction of dopamine neurons. It designates a rigidity of movements. The muscles are under excessive tension. This leads to a feeling of stiffness. This can be painful.

Hypertonia can affect all muscles of the body, but particularly affects along the spine. This often leads the patient to adopt a leaning forward posture.


Along with tremors and hypertonia, akinesia is among the first symptoms of this neurodegenerative disease. It corresponds to a slowness in the movements. This sign occurs when the patient tries to initiate and coordinate their movements.

Akinesia can therefore impact various activities of daily living such as:

  • walk ;
  • getting up from a chair;
  • go back to bed;
  • buttoning clothes;
  • open a jar;
  • to write…

Musculoskeletal pain

Only half of the patients suffer from pain. It can appear at all stages of the pathology and can range from moderate to severe. It is due to the fact that this neurodegenerative disease disrupts pain-relieving self-defense systems. People who suffer from this disease are particularly sensitive to pain.

With regard to musculoskeletal pain, it consists of muscle pain, joint pain or pain on the vertebral axis. They can concern different parts of the body: neck, calves, shoulders... Depending on the age of the patient, chronic low back pain can occur.

Neuropathic pain

Neuropathy designates all the affections of the motor and sensory nerves of the central nervous system. There are two kinds of neuropathic pain:

  • neuritic pain in case of nerve inflammation;
  • radicular pain in case of compression of the nerve root.

Concretely, these neuropathic pain may manifest as tingling or burning on the most affected part. Other patients may also suffer from postural or sciatic secondary.

Other symptoms

In addition to the signs already mentioned, here are other symptoms of Parkinson's disease:

  • anxiety or depression;
  • attention disorders;
  • absence or reduction of eyelids;
  • difficulty in articulating;
  • lack of facial expression;
  • excessive salivation followed by difficulty in containing saliva;
  • swallowing disorders;
  • urinary incontinence ;
  • sleep disorder ;
  • constipation ;
  • dystonia (pain due to intense muscle contractions);
  • dyskinesia (decreased voluntary movements)…

Parkinson's disease and back pain

Le relationship between back pain and Parkinson's disease becomes evident when the pain is associated with stiffness, stiffness or nerve damage caused by the disease.

Treatment of Parkinson's disease

Before prescribing the appropriate treatment, the neurologist or general practitioner makes a diagnosis. This is based on a clinical examination and symptoms. Sometimes laboratory tests or imaging tests may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other disorders.

As the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons is irreversible, there is no no cure for the disease. Treatments are aimed only at improving patients' quality of life and treating symptoms.

To relieve the pain, the doctor usually prescribes The dopa. It is a precursor molecule of dopamine: it is transformed into dopamine when it reaches the brain. If necessary, the doctor prescribes dopamine agonists.

L-dopa may be particularly effective in some patients just as it may be ineffective in others. In these cases, other treatments may be offered.

  • For muscoskeletal pain, the patient can take opioid analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • For pain of central origin, he may administer duloxetine.
  • For dystonias, the doctor prescribes botulinum toxin A.
  • La brain stimulation, transcranial or deep, can be considered depending on the situation.
  • Non-drug approaches may also be beneficial in Parkinson's disease. This is particularly the case for Tai-Chi or certain aquatic activities.


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