Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, incurable disorder caused by the degeneration of dopamine-producing cells in the part of the brain that affects movement, muscle control and balance. Most often appearing after age 60, symptoms include tremors, slow movement, difficulty initiating and continuing movement and postural instability. Parkinson’s disease treatment aims to maintain the individual’s quality of life and activities of daily living for as long as possible. Drugs can reduce rigidity and tremor, but they do not stop the disease’s progression and often cause unpleasant side effects.
Evidence shows that physical therapy can substantially benefit Parkinson’s disease patients, even those in their seventies and eighties. Such therapy can
- Optimize gait. Introducing techniques that make the individual aware of each step may promote a smoother, more regular gait and safer movement.
- Improve balance. Loss of balance is a common symptom, leading to a high rate of falls. Exercises that promote balance help reduce this risk.
- Reduce rigidity. Relaxing exercises may help the patient to alleviate the symptomatic rigidity.
- Increase strength. As movement becomes more difficult, people with Parkinson’s disease tend to move less, resulting in a loss of muscle mass. Resistance training may increase the distance patients can walk and improve their ability to negotiate stairs.
- Improve postural awareness. One of the hallmarks of the disease is the inability to control posture. Postural awareness exercises can help prevent accidents and falls.
- Support mental health. Depression is common in people with the disease. The longer people can continue to live independently or with minimal assistance, the less likely they are to become depressed.
Working with your physician, we can manage your Parkinson’s disease with physical therapy. Your physical therapist can identify the problem and determine an individualized exercise plan to reduce your need for medication and improve your quality of life.
We also have Certified LSVT Big (for Parkinsons) therapists in our Herndon and Rockville locations. This is an intensive physical and occupational therapy exercise program for people with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions. Treatments target larger amplitude whole body movements while retraining the sensory awareness of the effort required from normal movement.