In the last blog we only touched on the importance of exercise in Parkinson’s, so now let’s discuss the value of physical therapy!

How important is Physical Therapy in treating Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s is not a cookie cutter disease. Two individuals with similar demographics could develop Parkinson’s at the exact same time period in their life and have completely different symptoms. There are many popular exercise programs and classes for people with Parkinson’s but they may not be a good fit for everyone as different symptoms require different types of treatment.

A physical therapist will be able to develop a customized rehabilitation and exercise plan that is centered around your unique needs/symptoms. Treatment will be proactive in order to avoid any future complications, as well as reactive in order to correct any impairments that may already be present. Specific exercises for Parkinson’s are built on a foundation of high amplitude/explosive movements that are designed to help you circumnavigate the affected part of the brain. These exercises are custom tailored to address issues with balance, muscular strength, endurance, and multi-tasking.

Physical therapy has been shown to improve quality of walking, walking speed, endurance, fall risk, and muscular strength in people with Parkinson’s.  Medical treatment and physical therapy are two important components of care that can fail without the support of the other! Medication and movement are key!

What should I look for in my Parkinson’s Physical Therapist?

You should look for a physical therapist who has a specialization or extensive experience treating patients with Parkinson’s disease. Specialized Parkinson’s physical therapists will help you choose exercises that combat your unique symptoms, and that you also enjoy performing! Proactive physical therapy can help people with Parkinson’s remain just as active as their peers, allowing them to do the things they love most, and explore new types of physical activity!

Because proactive therapy is so effective, building a relationship with a specialized Parkinson’s therapist is crucial, as you both learn how best to stay ahead of the disease and what treatments you respond best to. Your therapist will also be able to work with other members of your team (your physician, personal trainer, family, employer) in order to give you the most comprehensive care both inside and outside of the clinic. The most effective model of physical therapy care is similar to the dental model, starting with proactive start of care, then progressing to regular checkups to assess your function. This allows you and your therapist to track data that shows us how you’re doing, what kinds of progress we’re making, if the disease is progressing, and how best to stay ahead of it. Often times, the focus of physical therapy is on fixing what is wrong and preventing future impairments. This is fantastic, but with the right Parkinson’s therapist, you can go past corrective therapy and work on exploring new movements, exercises, and possibilities beyond what you thought was possible.

Staying active is the most important thing you can do in your fight against Parkinson’s, and your physical therapist is your partner in this journey! Dr. Alexis Griffin speaks to this in an earlier blog describing a physical therapist’s role as a lifespan practitioner.

Author: Cam Jadali PT, DPT, NCS