Changing Lives – How Physical Therapy Helps People with Parkinson’s Disease 

three senior women laugh and enjoy time together outdoors

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological disorder that mainly affects the motor component of the central nervous system. In neurologically normal adults, physical movements are largely controlled by automatic programs within the brain. For someone diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, the automatic circuits are impaired making movements such as walking or rolling over in bed difficult. In addition to having difficulty with movement, someone with Parkinson’s Disease may experience tremors or loss of balance.  

Managing Parkinson’s Disease

My grandfather, Milton, lived with Parkinson’s Disease for many years. Having a physical therapist as part of his care team improved his quality of life immensely. Through physical therapy, he was able to stay mobile in order to attend his grandkids’ graduations and weddings. His therapist was there throughout the progression of his disease, helping him transition from using a cane to a walker. Not only was physical therapy helpful for him as an individual, but it was also helpful for my grandmother who eventually became a caregiver.  

If you’re concerned about staying mobile, performing your day-to-day tasks, are fearful of falling or would like to know how you can care for your loved one with Parkinson’s disease, physical therapy may be a great place to start!   

physical therapist assists an elderly man learning to use a walker

How does PT help with Parkinson’s Disease?

Through hands-on care (manual therapy), education, and prescribed movement, physical therapy can help improve: 

  • Strength 
  • Endurance 
  • Mobility
  • Coordination 
  • Flexibility 
  • Balance  
  • Breathing  
  • Circulation

It can also help decrease pain, falls and freezing episodes. 

Most importantly, physical therapy can help you meet YOUR goals. Your therapist will work with you to create a program to meet your needs.  

What can I expect from PT for Parkinson's Disease?

  • Evaluation/Exam
    • Your provider will take time to listen to your history and concerns
    • Your provider may observe how you move, perform strength and balance testing
  • Goal setting
    • Patient goals – we want to keep treatment salient!
    • Provider goals – this may include increasing walking speed, decreasing fall risk by improving balance, improving strength, etc.
  • Creation of treatment plan
    • Individualized exercise program (in clinic and “homework”)
      • Amplitude training
        • LSVT BIG
      • Reciprocal movements
        • Patterns
      • Balance training
        • Static and dynamic
      • Gait
        • Assistive device
        • Speed
      • Stretching
        • Counteract stiffness and rigidity
      • Strength training
        • Combat accelerated muscle weakening
      • Dual-task training

Helping you Maintain your function and independence.

Neurological disorders including Parkinson's Disease affect the brain, the spine and the nerves that connect them and can lead to loss of movement and function and create an inability to perform certain activities. Our highly trained physical therapists strive to maximize a person’s return to functional independence and an active and healthy lifestyle.

Older couple walking outdoors laughing

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