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Parkinson’s Disease and Physical Therapy

Parkinson’s disease is currently known as the fourteenth top cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention, and the second most common degenerative brain disorder. Symptoms for Parkinson’s disease begin in people who are around 60 years old, and since these symptoms include shaking, stiffening, slow movements, and difficulty with balancing, physical therapy can act as a treatment, along with medication, and sometimes surgery. If you or someone you know has Parkinson’s disease here is information about what it is, the symptoms, diagnosis, and how you can benefit from physical therapy.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that develops slowly in most people and gets worse over time. What happens is a person’s brain will slowly stop producing a neurotransmitter, called dopamine, which then results in the person having less of an ability to control their emotions, body, and movements. So what causes this disease? There actually is no proven cause. However, aging, exposure to environmental toxins, or your family history can act as contributing factors.

Four Main Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

As the disease progresses you might start noticing other symptoms, but at first they can be very moderate.

  1. Problems with walking or balancing
  2. Slow movements
  3. Stiff muscles
  4. Shaking or trembling, usually in your hands, arms, or legs

Other symptoms might include:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty paying attention for a certain period of time
  • Less expressions in your face


There is no specific test for the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. It is established by your medical history and a neurological examination. If your doctor or physical therapist believes you have symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, you may be referred to a neurologist for further examination.

If you have any of the following, a diagnosis will be made:

  • Symptoms only on one side of the body
  • At least 2 of the key signs — tremor when resting, slowing of motion, or muscle rigidity
  • An improvement in your symptoms when taking levodopa, a medication to treat Parkinson’s disease


Physical Therapy and Parkinson’s Disease

Although physical therapy doesn’t cure Parkinson’s disease, it is referred to as a compensatory treatment that includes learning about the equipment, strategies, and new movement techniques. The treatment plan will be prepared by your physical therapist after a comprehensive evaluation that includes questions about the effects Parkinson’s disease has on your life along with a test to examine your coordination, posture, balance, flexibility, walking, and strength. Your physical therapist will act as a partner with you and your family to teach you exercises that can ease and strengthen your muscles, enhance your independence, function and movement, and soothe your pain tailored to your need. Physical therapy can help with:

  • Weakness
  • Gait
  • Immobility
  • Balance problems
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Lack of coordination

Exercises that can be done at home:

  • Swimming or aerobics
  • Yoga
  • Walking
  • Gardening
  • Dancing
  • Stretching


For more information about Parkinson’s disease, and how Access Physical Therapy & Wellness can help, please contact us today.



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