Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disease that affects your body’s ability to move. This condition can make performing simple daily tasks such as walking, getting up from a chair or moving in bed more difficult, as movements become smaller and slower. In the U.S. alone, there are more than one million people living with Parkinson’s.
Currently, there is no known cause or cure for Parkinson’s disease. There are several different medical and exercise based treatments options that can help you control and manage your symptoms.
Some of the most common symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease include:
- Walking difficulty and balance issues
- Poor posture
- Shuffling of the feet with walking
- Stiffness in the arms or legs — a cogwheel rigidity
- The feeling of being stuck or “freezing” when walking
- Difficulty performing daily tasks such as writing is smaller and getting up from a chair can be difficult
- Resting tremors in hands- a pill-rolling tremor
- Weakness in voice — hard to hear
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your neurologist may recommend medication in addition to physical, occupational and speech therapy to help with motor symptoms. Your neurologist and physical therapist will work in collaboration to ensure seamless continuity of care. Their communication throughout your care will help you to improve function and quality of life.
If your healthcare provider recommends neurological physical therapy, you will work with a therapist who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of movement disorders due to disease or injury of the nervous system. He or she is also trained to provide effective and goal-specific therapeutic treatment. This treatment may include education on how to manage your symptoms, assistive device training, evidenced-based high amplitude training (LSVT BIG®), practicing tasks such as bed mobility and turning, as well as working to improve your walking and balance confidence.
When you first meet your physical therapist, he or she will ask you to complete a questionnaire that provides an overview of your current symptoms. This may be used to build a customized treatment plan to meet your individual needs and goals.
Your physical therapist will then perform a physical evaluation to assess your current capabilities including strength, flexibility, coordination, sensation, posture, walking ability and balance to determine the impact your current physical limitations are having on your daily life.
Physical therapy can also help you:
- Reduce your risk for falls
- Improve mobility and posture
- Improve confidence in walking
- Improve balance
- Reduce stiffness and pain
- Increase strength
Studies have shown that physical and occupational therapy intervention, along with regular exercise, can help slow or stop the progression of symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease and improve your overall quality of life.