How Can Physical Therapy Slow the Progression of Parkinson's Disease?
Parkinson's Disease (PD) is the second most common degenerative brain disorder, behind Alzheimer's disease. It is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine- an important component controlling movement. Although the exact cause is unknown, it has been theorized that family history, aging, and environmental exposure can cause or contribute to the onset of PD. PD is most commonly identified by the trademark symptom of hand tremors typically seen in one hand, while at rest. Other symptoms include but are not limited to “freezing” or difficulty initiating movement, body or joint stiffness, stooped forward posture, shuffling gait pattern, slowed movements, poor balance, and/or lack of facial expression. PD is progressive in nature and over time will make activities of daily living much more challenging for the individual, often leading to a decreased quality of life and subsequently the diagnosis of clinical depression.
Although there is currently no cure for PD, it has been proven that physical therapy can assist in slowing the progression of the disease. Studies have shown that physical therapy can assist with refining balance, increasing strength and flexibility, and improving posture and gait mechanics (walking) which will help prevent falls, aid in maintaining independence, and improve overall quality of life. As physical therapists, we are trained to problem solve with patients and family members/caregivers to devise a safe and effective treatment plan that encourages safety and independence. Treatments may focus on smooth transitions from sitting to standing, strategies for safe negotiation in the home and community, bed mobility (turning or rolling over in bed), safety tips for toileting and bathing, ascending and descending stairs safely, or reducing fall risk through balance training.
As always, if you, a family member, or a friend could benefit from physical therapy, please call for an evaluation. We are always here to help!
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