physiotherapy for parkinson's

Physiotherapy for Parkinson’s Patients

Physiotherapy involvement for Parkinson’s Disease is supported by a growing evidence base of high quality research and leading best practice guidelines1,2,3. Various benefits to patients of Parkinson’s, in a range of physical and quality of life measures have been identified through systematic reviews. Studies have also shown improved flexibility, strength, walking, balance and fitness in patients who participate in a physiotherapy program.

Physiotherapy at ReLiva for Parkinson’s disease focuses on the following:

  • Improving or maintaining fitness through exercise
  • Helping you to move about
  • Helping you to maintain independence in your daily life
  • Helping to prevent or manage falls
  • Maintaining or improving effective breathing
  • Providing pain relief

In the early stages of Parkinson’s, your physio can give you advice, education and support in keeping up your fitness levels and good posture to help you remain independent. As the condition gets worse, your physio may focus on your walking, posture and balance.

There are different types of pain which could be associated with Parkinson’s. These are pain in the muscles and bones (musculoskeletal), involuntary muscle spasms (dystonic), primary or central pain nerve pain (neuropathic) and restlessness, or being unable to keep still (akathisia-related pain).

A physiotherapist can assess the pain and can then use methods such as manual therapy, heat, or cold, ultrasound to help relieve pain you may have.

ReLiva can provide the physiotherapy treatment at our clinics or by a visit to your home. We can provide advice on aids and equipment that you could use to make things easier for you.

1. Keus S, Domingos J, Rochester L, et al. European physiotherapy guideline for Parkinson’s disease [draft]. s.l.: European Parkinson’s Disease Association; 2013.

2. Tomlinson CL, Patel S, Meek C, et al. Physiotherapy versus placebo or no intervention in Parkinson’s disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;9:CD002817.

3. Allen NE, Sherrington C, Paul SS, et al. Balance and falls in Parkinson’s disease: a meta-analysis of the effect of exercise and motor training. Movement Disorders. 2011 Aug 1;26(9):1605-15.

What is Parkinson’s Disease ?

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the deterioration of nerve cells in an area of brain known as the ‘substantia nigra’. When functioning normally, the nerve cells produce a chemical known as dopamine which serves as a chemical messenger allowing communication between the substantia nigra and another area of the brain called the corpus striatum. This communication coordinates smooth and balanced muscle movement. A lack of dopamine results in abnormal nerve functioning, causing a loss in the ability to control body movements.

Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disease which progressively leads to by motor and non-motor problems. As Parkinson’s progresses, the amount of dopamine produced in the brain decreases, leaving a person unable to control movement normally.

Diagnosis of Parkinson’s is usually based on clinical examination. People with Parkinson’s might present with falling, loss of confidence and independence and reduced quality of life The three main symptoms are bradykinesia (slowness), rigidity (stiffness) and tremor.

In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, your face may show little or no expression, or your arms may not swing when you walk. Your speech may become soft or slurred. Parkinson’s disease symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time.

What causes Parkinson’s ?

Why Parkinson’s disease occurs and how the nerve cells become impaired is not known.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease also differ from person to person. The symptoms also change as the disease progresses. Symptoms that one person gets in the early stages of the disease, another person may not get until later-or not at all.

Symptoms typically begin appearing between the ages of 50 and 60. They develop slowly and often go unnoticed by family, friends, and even the person who has them.

What is the benefit Parkinson’s patient can expect with Physiotherapy ?

As the diseases progresses, the symptoms can get worse and it can become increasingly difficult for patient to carry out everyday activities. Many people respond well to treatment and only experience mild to moderate disability, whereas few may not respond as well and can, in time, become more severely disabled.

Parkinson’s doesn’t directly cause people to die, but it can make some people more vulnerable to serious and life-threatening infections. However, with advances in treatment, most people with Parkinson’s disease now have a normal or near-normal life expectancy.

Physiotherapy plays an important role in helping the patients manage the symptoms and the benefits to patients include:

  • Improving or maintaining fitness
  • Help in retaining independence
  • Help in movement/function
  • Managing fall risk and balance
  • Pain management

Studies have shown improved flexibility, strength, walking, balance and fitness in patients who participate in a physiotherapy program.

More about Parkinsons

It’s thought around 1 in 500 people are affected by Parkinson’s disease. An estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide live with Parkinson’s disease, which is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Most people with Parkinson’s start to develop symptoms when they’re over 50, although around 1 in 20 people with the condition first experience symptoms when they’re under 40 and men are slightly more likely to get Parkinson’s disease than women.

Parkinson’s disease, in particular, can be profoundly frustrating, as walking, talking and even eating become more difficult and time-consuming. Although friends and family can be your best allies, the understanding of people who know what you’re going through can be especially helpful.

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