People who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD), should follow a regular exercise routine to help with controlling movement and balance, and to help maintain posture, flexibility and strength. Physical therapy is beneficial because a therapist can help a patient manage the symptoms that result from this disease. Physical therapists are qualified through education and experience to treat Parkinson’s patients. There are about 60,000 Americans who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year. The disease is related to the loss of nerve cells in the brain, and symptoms can include tremors, muscle rigidity and tightness. Complications from the disease include falling, making PD the 14th leading cause of death in the United States.
Although the cause of PD is still unknown, the onset of the disease may be caused by age, family history, or exposure to environmental toxins. Men are more frequently diagnosed than women, and more often are over the age of 60. This is a chronic degenerative disease and the severity of symptoms can vary. Some people live with PD for decades with a slow progression in the decline of mobility, while others may experience a quicker decline in mobility within the first few years of the diagnosis. According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), a physical therapist can help a Parkinson’s patient to stay active and independent with a program of special exercises and techniques to help combat the symptoms of the disease.
When a patient is first diagnosed, it is essential to establish a baseline of the patient’s current physical ability. An examination by a physical therapist will help to define the appropriate course of action. The therapist may conduct tests to evaluate posture, strength, flexibility, and balance. An individualized exercise program can then be designed around the specific needs of the patient. For example, an exercise treatment protocol might focus on such issues as:
- Balance problems
- Climbing or descending stairs
- Getting in and out of bed
- Daily tasks that might become increasingly more frustrating
An ongoing program consisting of exercises that address posture, balance and gait have been shown to be highly effective in decreasing the risk of falling. As the disease progresses, scheduled, periodic re-evaluations with a physical therapist will help the patient and their family members to ensure that the program of treatment remains effective, or if adjustments to the treatment are needed. Further, physical therapists can make recommendations for a home exercise program and can suggest changes in and around the home to make it easier and safer for a patient with PD to live a better quality of life.
This article is brought to you by PREFERRED Therapy Providers Inc. PREFERRED is the nation’s leading payor management services network. Our expertise is working with physical, occupational and speech therapy practices – from single clinics to multiple clinic locations.