Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder that affects movement, balance, speech, and cognition. According to the Parkinson's Foundation, about one million Americans live with PD, and more than 10 million people worldwide are diagnosed with it. While there is no cure for PD, physical therapy can help people manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
Physical therapy can help people with PD:
• Maintain or improve their mobility, strength, flexibility, and balance
• Reduce their risk of falls and injuries
• Enhance their confidence and independence in daily activities
• Learn strategies to cope with the challenges of living with PD
Physical therapists are experts in movement and function. They use exercise, and hands on techniques to improve strength, coordination and range of motion. Physical therapists also use exercise and activities to challenge and improve the balance of people with Parkinson's Disease. In addition, they can also provide education, guidance, and support for people with PD and their caregivers.
Physical therapy for people with Parkinson's Disease is heavily researched and has been shown to be an effective intervention. One meta-study (a study that combines the results of many other studies) that covered 1827 participants found that when compared to no intervention
PT significantly improved:
• gait speed
• two- and six-minute walk test scores
• Freezing of Gait questionnaire
• the Timed Up & Go test
• Functional Reach Test
• and the Berg Balance Scale
These results indicate improvements in mobility, endurance, strength, and balance. Gait speed is an especially important measurement. Physical therapists often consider gait speed a "vital sign." This is because low gait speed has been linked to:
• declines in functional mobility
• higher rates of hospitalization
• higher fall rates
• cognitive decline
• increased disability
• and higher risk of death
A larger meta study that included 191 studies with 7998 participants found that PT significantly improved motor symptoms, gait, and quality of life. Specifically:
• Resistance and treadmill training improved gait.
• Strategy training improved balance and gait.
• Dance, Nordic walking, balance and gait training, and martial arts improved motor symptoms, balance, and gait.
Physical therapy can be beneficial at any stage of PD, from the time of diagnosis to the advanced stages. It is a valuable treatment option for people with PD, as it can help to improve or maintain their physical function, mobility, and independence. Physical therapy can also enhance their quality of life, confidence, and well-being.
If you or someone you know has PD, talk to your doctor about getting a referral to a physical therapist.
You know that physical activity is good for you. The benefits are well researched and the list is impressive. Here's just a sampling:
● Releases endorphins to make you feel good and fight depression
● Helps control weight
● Prevents diseases like stroke, diabetes and some forms of cancer
● Improves sleep
● Helps you live longer
Recent studies even show that physical activity strengthens your immune system, with a protective effect against COVID, and that staying active through middle age protects your brain as you age.
Physical activity is a wonder drug. If it was a pill, you'd buy it and take it every day. But even though activity is free, less than 25% of Americans meet the CDC recommendations for activity. We clearly need help.
Physical Therapists Are The Experts in Human Movement
To be active, you need to be able to move. Physical Therapists do more than help you recover from surgeries or major injuries. We are the experts in human movement. Sure, you could see a strength coach to lift weights, hire a personal trainer, go to a yoga class to work on your flexibility and balance, and see a chiropractor for adjustments. But that seems like a lot of people when a PT can help you with all of these things and more. Nobody knows more about human movement or looks at your health the same way a PT does. We can help you with every aspect of movement including strength, range of motion, flexibility, endurance, balance and coordination.
As medical professionals we can help you with injuries or other issues. Your PT can work with your doctor to help use activity to manage things like diabetes, cholesterol levels or blood pressure instead of prescriptions. We are also trained to work with people of all ages, so you can develop a long-term relationship and we can continue to adjust and modify your routine as you age or your goals change.
Stay Healthy For Life
Staying active has a long list of benefits both now and in the future. But chances are you're not moving enough to make the most of those benefits. Most people need help. Physical therapists are the most qualified professional in existence to help keep you moving and healthy now and in the future. So don't only think of your PT as someone you see when you need help with pain or an injury. Think of us as your partner and coach working to help you keep moving and stay healthy for life.