“Parkinson disease (PD) is the second most common degenerative brain disorder affecting adults. (Alzheimer disease is the most common.) Parkinson disease was first defined as only a “motor” (movement) disease, but research has shown that it also causes “nonmotor” symptoms (such as lightheadedness when standing up) in other systems of the body. People with PD are at risk of falling and sustaining other injuries due to their movement and balance challenges. Treatment includes a combination of medication and physical therapy—and in some cases surgery. Physical therapists partner with people with PD and their families to manage their symptoms, maintain their fitness levels, and help them stay as active as possible.”
So, How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
Because this disease affects each person differently, physical therapists help manage each specific situation and will continue to as the individual’s condition changes.
Following a diagnosis of PD, the physical therapist will conduct a comprehensive evaluation, including tests to examine posture, strength, flexibility, walking, endurance, balance, coordination, and attention with movement. Based on the test results, the physical therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan to help the patient stay as active and as independent as possible. Individualized programs will include exercises and techniques to combat the symptoms of PD.
Depending on the nature and severity of the condition, the treatment program may focus on activities and education to help:
- Improve fitness level, strength, and flexibility
- Develop more effective strategies to get in and out of bed, chairs, and cars
- Turn over in bed more easily
- Stand and turn to change directions more efficiently
- Improve the smoothness and coordination of walking
- Improve your ability to perform hand movements
- Decrease the risk of falling
- Improve ability to climb and descend stairs and curbs
- Perform more than 1 task at a time more efficiently
- Participate in activities that are important to you
Some of the medications designed to manage PD symptoms may have an immediate positive effect. For example, movement is typically much easier shortly after you begin taking certain PD medications. Your physical therapist will know how to time treatments, exercise, and activity based on both the schedule and the effects of your medications to get the best results.
Parkinson’s disease can make daily activities seem frustrating and time-consuming. Your physical therapist will become a partner with you and your family to help you combat and manage the symptoms of PD. As your condition changes, your treatment program will be adjusted to help you be as independent and as active as possible.
Some people with PD benefit from using a cane or a walker. Your physical therapist can work with you to determine if any of these devices may be helpful to you. If you need physical assistance to help you with moving in bed or getting out of a chair, your physical therapist can team with you and your family to develop strategies to make moving easier and help prevent injury. In addition, your physical therapist can make suggestions on changes to your home environment to optimize safe and efficient daily function at home.