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How Does Physical Therapy Help Parkinson’s Disease

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How To Prepare For Physical Therapy For Parkinsons Disease

Parkinson Disease: Treatment by a Physical Therapist

Preparing for physical therapy for Parkinsons disease is important to get the most out of your sessions. First, it is best to consult with your doctor to get clearance before starting PT. From there, you will want to find a therapist that specializes in PD.

Once you have found a therapist, there are a few things you can do to prepare for your first session.

Gather Information About Your Pd

To provide you with the best possible care, your therapist will need to know about your PD. Be sure to bring along any information that you have about your diagnosis, such as:

  • Your medical history
  • A list of your current medications
  • Any changes in your symptoms

This information will help your therapist to better understand your PD and how it is affecting you. It will also allow them to tailor their approach to best meets your needs.

The Importance Of Physical Therapy For Parkinsons

Since Parkinsons disease causes such an impact on the body, physical therapy can make a big difference. Even though the nerve damage caused by the disease cant be reversed, you can improve your physical capacity and learn how to compensate for impairments.

Working with a physical therapist can help improve your balance, your gait, and your daily movements, among other skills. You can also build strength and cardiovascular capacity with aerobic and strength training.

Early on, your physical therapist can help you maintain your current functioning and favorite activities. In later stages, the therapist can help you relearn how to perform your daily activities or work around the changes in your body.

One of the main goals of physical therapy for Parkinsons disease is to enhance your wellbeing through timely interventions and education. You should feel better as a result of the benefits of physical therapy, which include:

  • Improved strength

Therapeutic interventions help you stay active and maintain your independence. Without physical therapy, you risk greater disability, more fall risk, worsening physical ability, and poorer quality of life.

Early intervention is particularly imperative as you have a vital window to address issues early on, even before you notice changes. Your physical therapy sessions are a critical part of your care.

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How To Find Your Expert Physical Therapist For Parkinsons Disease

It is important to find a physical therapist who has specialty training and experience working with PD. You may find experienced physical therapists working in hospital outpatient departments, home health agencies, nursing homes or within the community close to your home. Ask your neurologist for a referral at your next appointment.

The Parkinsons Foundation Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO can help you locate an experienced physical therapist near you who is trained to work with people with PD, and provide questions to ask a potential physical therapist to assess their experience.

Make It To Your Appointments

Parkinsons Disease Physical Therapy Interventions

The number of physical therapy appointments you need depends on your condition and goals. Generally, your first appointment will include an evaluation and exercise recommendations. In following appointments, your physical therapist will check your progress and add or modify exercises according to your needs. Make sure you attend all of your appointments to stay on track.

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Benefits Of Physical Therapy For Parkinson’s Disease

Here are some ways that getting physical therapy for PD can improve your quality of life:

Balance work – Individuals with PD can struggle with balance issues. A physical therapist will offer a variety of balance improvement exercises that help strengthen the muscles, build muscle memory in the brain, and teach you ways to compensate for any loss of motor function.

Flexibility work – It is prevalent for those with PD to develop tight hip flexors, hamstring stiffness, and tight calf muscles. Tight muscles can make already difficult tasks for those with PD even more of a challenge for the body to perform. This is mainly due to the body not being able to move the same way it used to and compensating for painful or weakened areas. Physical therapists will work with you to gently stretch muscles throughout the body and give you easy stretches to do at home to remain loose and limber.

Muscle Strength work – Muscles naturally weaken with age, but even more so in someone with PD. Strength training is vital to slow the progression of PD as well as give your body more stability to perform everyday tasks. A physical therapist will provide you with exercises that integrate light weights or resistance bands to gently strengthen the muscles.

Exercising Regularly And Safely

It is thought that people with Parkinsons are around a third less active than the general population of the same age. Not exercising can harm your health and you are more likely to develop other conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. You should therefore try to make exercise part of your regular routine, choosing types of exercise to suit your individual abilities and needs. It is a good idea to ask your physiotherapist or doctor for advice before starting any new exercise regime.

The following tips should help you to exercise effectively and safely:

For more information on the benefits of exercise and how tips for exercising safely see Exercise. Remember too that the range of Apps and technology-based exercise is ever-increasing, so be open to trying new ways to extend and enjoy exercise.

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When To Find An Occupational Therapist

Many people with Parkinsons will benefit from occupational therapy. Request a referral for occupational therapy from your neurologist or movement disorder specialist. Ask them if they can recommend an occupational therapist with knowledge and experience in the management of PD. You can also contact your state OT association, a hospital outpatient rehabilitation, a local rehabilitation facility or home care agency to find an OT.

Find more information on the American Occupational Therapy Association website at www.aota.org.

Do Your Part Outside Of Therapy

How does Physical Therapy Exercises help in Parkinson’s Disease

It is vital to practice the exercises you learn in physical therapy at home. Doing exercises at home will help you reap the most benefits from physical therapy and keep you strong. Your physical therapist will show you activities that are safe for you to do outside of therapy sessions.

In addition to doing planned exercises, consider ways to increase general physical activity. For example, doing housework, gardening or walking around a store are ways to increase physical activity every day.

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How Does Physical Activity Benefit Parkinsons Patients

Leading an active lifestyle is beneficial for people of all ages and protects against chronic conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, osteoporosis and even dementia. If a senior is not already an active person in their daily life, it is never too late to start. Some of the preventive benefits may not be as strong for those beginning an exercise regimen later in life, but doing so can still have immediate effects like improving sleep, reducing feelings of anxiety and lowering blood pressure.

For elders with Parkinsons disease , frequent exercise is vital. PD is a progressive neurodegenerative condition that mainly affects movement but can cause mental and behavioral changes as well. Although the exact cause is still unclear, PD occurs when neurons in areas of the brain that regulate movement are damaged or die. Primary physical symptoms of Parkinsons disease include rigidity, resting tremor, bradykinesia , akinesia , and balance problems, all of which can increase a patients fall risk and cause difficulties with activities of daily living . Non-motor symptoms include fluctuations in blood pressure, digestive issues and fatigue.

Lsvt Programs For Parkinsons Disease

LSVT BIG and LSVT LOUD are the most researched and proven treatment methods. LSVT BIG is an exercise approach specific to combating the motor impairment of Parkinsons disease and focuses on amplitude, or bigness, and high-intensity exercise.

The things that have been proven most effective are large exaggerated movements, cycling, boxing, tai chi, dancing, he said. A lot of people have never been a regular exerciser so I say find something you like or something you dont hate and do that.’

LSVT treatment protocol calls for 16 one-hour treatment sessions, four times per week for four weeks. That is not always feasible so Keenoy says to start with 10 to 15 minutes of daily exercise.

Some patients show improvement with one to four sessions per week, ranging from four to 12 weeks. Therapists focus on teaching people how to apply the treatment principals to getting out of a chair, putting on their shoes, or other functional and recreational activities.

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Physical Therapy Strategies For Parkinsons Disease

PT can improve daily functioning for people living with PD by:4

  • Improving gait, or the way a person walks
  • Improving transfers, like going from stillness to activity
  • Improving balance
  • Strengthening joints and muscles to improve physical capacity

One of the ways physical therapists help improve gait is through the use of cues. Cues are stimuli from the environment or generated by the person that they can use to facilitate repetitive movements, like walking. Cues can be:4

  • Auditory, like using a metronome or music
  • Visual, such as stepping over stripes on the floor
  • Tactile, like tapping on the hip or leg
  • Cognitive, like using a mental image of the length of a step

What Kind Of Physical Therapist Do I Need


All physical therapists are prepared through education and experience to treat patients with PD. You may want to consider:

  • A physical therapist who is experienced in treating people with neurological disorders. Some physical therapists have a practice with a neurological focus.
  • A physical therapist who is a board-certified clinical specialist or who has completed a residency or fellowship in neurologic physical therapy. This physical therapist has advanced knowledge, experience, and skills that may apply to your condition.

You can search for physical therapists in your area with these credentials and clinical expertise through Find a PT, a tool built by the American Physical Therapy Association.

General tips when you are looking for a physical therapist :

  • Get recommendations from family, friends, or other health care providers.
  • When you contact a physical therapy clinic for an appointment, ask about the physical therapists’ experience in helping people with PD.
  • Be prepared to describe your concerns in as much detail as possible, and let the physical therapist know what you would like to accomplish by going to physical therapy.

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Emotional And Physical Impact

Disease duration in those diagnosed with PD can span decades. Due to the progressive nature of the disease, there is considerable emotional, social, and physical impact. These impacts include compromised functional status and quality of life, social isolation due to the presence and severity of motor and nonmotor symptoms, and increased burden on care partners.

How Physical Therapy Can Help Parkinsons Disease

After a Parkinsons diagnosis, there are pharmaceutical and surgical options to help increase dopamine production. Patients also benefit from physical, speech and occupational therapies, and high-intensity exercise, which can stave off Parkinsons progression.

A physicians referral is not needed to start Parkinsons physical therapy, and an evaluation looks at strength, balance, range of motion, gait, and functional mobility. It establishes where you are at currently, how PT can help get you to where you want to go, and if you are safe for exercise.

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How Can Physical Therapy Help Parkinson’s Disease

Physical therapy is an important part of a treatment plan for Parkinson’s disease. It aims to help individuals with Parkinson’s disease remain active and independent as long as possible. According to a recent meta-analysis, physical therapy significantly improves symptoms related to motor skills. The Parkinson’s Foundation states that increasing physical activity to 2.5 hours a week or more can help people with Parkinson’s disease maintain their quality of life.

Overall, physical therapy can help with the following:

  • Increasing endurance

Because physical therapy improves motor skills and decreases pain, you can expect it to help with many of your regular activities, such as getting up from a chair, climbing stairs and getting into and out of a car.

Physical therapy can also improve other symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease, such as depression, anxiety and fatigue. Lastly, it can help with other health issues that impair mobility, like joint pain.

Doctors recommend beginning an evidence-based physical therapy program as soon as possible. Exercise can induce neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to change in response to behavioral changes. When you begin physical therapy, your brain learns new ways to move and think. Exercise also helps brain cells stay healthy. In other words, physical therapy may slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

Putting On Your Jacket

Physical Therapy and Parkinson’s Disease

Getting dressed takes a lot of flexibility, balance and coordination. You have to be able to twist and reach into that jacket or shirt hole. You need some serious balance to lift one foot up to put inside a pant leg without having to sit on the edge of the bed. Exercise, in combination with smart clothing strategies, can save you a lot of time and frustration every day.

If youre struggling with getting clothes on your body, your Parkinsons physical therapist can help break down the movement into various exercises so you can get back to doing more on your own. If you struggle with the buttons, zippers and laces, make sure to include an occupational therapist in your treatment program and practice your hand exercises regularly.

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Easy Exercises You Can Try At Home

Once you learn physical therapy exercises, you can usually perform them at home. A therapist can inform you how often you should perform your exercises. If you would like to get started with therapy on your own, here are a couple of exercises you can try at home.

1. Wrist Curls You need a dumbbell that weighs one to five pounds to perform this exercise. Holding the weight in one hand, place the wrist over a tables edge with the palm facing up. Perform 12 repetitions in which you slowly flex your wrist to move your hand up as far as possible. When you cant go any further, hold for a few seconds. Repeat this on the other side, and if you can, do two sets on each hand. This exercise helps to improve the dexterity of your fingers and hands and reduce tremors.

2. Single-Leg Stand This exercise improves steadiness and balance when standing or walking. You can rest your hands on the back of a chair or against the wall for support. Start by standing on your less dominant leg, placing all your weight on it. Lift the opposite foot off the floor slowly. Using your arms for balance as little as possible, hold the position for 20 seconds before repeating on the other side.

How Often Should A Person Visit A Physical Therapist

The number of PT sessions a person needs can vary. Depending on the facility and an individuals requirements, sessions are usually between 30 minutes and 1 hour.

During the first few sessions, a physical therapist will assess a persons needs and map out a customized exercise plan. A therapist will give a person exercises to do at home and schedule regular PT sessions as necessary.

The European Parkinsons Disease Association recommends that a person tries to exercise for at least 150 minutes each week. They can break this down into five 30-minute sessions, ten 15-minute sessions, or three bursts of 10 minutes each.

The EPDA describes the LSVT Big program, which involves 16 sessions over a month, or 4 hourly sessions each week. This intensive treatment focuses on improving fine motor and gross motor movements, making daily tasks easier for people with Parkinsons disease.

A person can ask a physical therapist about the duration and frequency of their PT sessions.

According to the World Confederation for Physical Therapy, apart from performing PT treatments and interventions, a licensed physical therapist can:

  • give a clinical diagnosis and prognosis
  • determine outcomes of a clinical intervention
  • conduct a physical evaluation of a persons movement and flexibility
  • map out short and long-term goals
  • give self-management recommendations to manage conditions across multiple specialties
  • refer a person to other healthcare professionals
  • stooping or hunched posture

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How Physical Therapy Can Help With Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms:

People with Parkinsons often have trouble with balance, with initiating walking, feel stiff in their trunk, and have difficulty moving quickly. Physical therapists can help with all of that and more. Below are some examples of common treatments that someone with Parkinsons can have if they come into CBPT:

How To Spring Clean Your Exercise Routine


Try a New Time. Along with the changing of the seasons, the rhythm of ourbodies also go through some major changes as springtime approaches. Takeadvantage of those longer springtime daylight hours and test drive a new timeof day for your workout to see if you feel more energized.

Try a New Class. A consistent routine can be one of the most important waysto maintain a healthy lifestyle, but that doesnt mean the routine has to berepetitive. Consider trying a new class or workout style to activate new musclegroups and engage your brain in something new.

Shorten Your Session. Are you surprised to hear this advice? Try doing a shorterworkout at a higher level of intensity to see how your body responds. Sometimesit can get tempting to work out just a little bit longer, but this can oftenlead to burnout or injury.

Invite a Friend. Though it can be hard to align busy schedules, working outwith a friend even once a week is worth it! Asking a friend to join can makeyour workout more fun and also help keep you accountable. They may evenencourage you to try something new!

Write Down a Goal. Whether a big or small goal, writing it down and putting itsomewhere youll see every day can be very motivating. Whether its signing upfor a race, mastering a new skill or working toward a fitness goal, writing itdown can help give your workouts a purpose and a direction.

Reduced risk of injury

Improved posture to reduce back pain

Improved sports performance

Aging Well

Feel better overall

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