Parkinson’s Disease (PD), also known as Idiopathic Parkinsonism, affects approximately one percent of the population over 55, with the percentage of people affected increasing with age. Though the etiology is unknown, genetic predisposition, familial history and head trauma have been correlated to an increased risk for developing PD. PD is associated with decreased dopamine within the basal ganglia of the brain. Dopamine may be decreased up to eighty percent before an individual begins to demonstrate signs and symptoms of PD. This delay is a tribute to the strength and versatility of the brain, but shows the importance of seeking treatment as soon as one is officially diagnosed. Diagnosis is made by a neurologist, with follow-up care being medication and physical therapy.
There are three things that I tell my clients on the first day of physical therapy:
1. PD is predictably unpredictable. No one can say for certain how the progression will occur. However, research does show that a combination of medication and physical therapy may help slow, stop or reverse the progression of the disease
2. Never say never. There are numerous myths out there about what you can and cannot do once diagnosed with PD. I have worked with individuals who have continued their careers as successful kickboxers, professors and mothers, all after being diagnosed. A fulfilling life will continue with PD.
3. Don’t single out the PD and neglect other health problems. You are only as good as your general health. The healthier and stronger your body is, the greater the benefit you will receive from treatment.
There are numerous Parkinson’s research groups that are dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with PD. Regardless of which Parkinson’s research group that you follow, be it the LSVT BIG group, the POWER group, etc., much of the research on Parkinson’s Disease points to the same conclusion: a target-specific exercise program may be essential in delaying the progression and deterioration of function that may develop with PD.
It is imperative that individuals participate in target-specific physical therapy program, beginning as early as possible. For individuals with PD who are unable to immediately participate in Physical Therapy, here are some guidelines that may assist you in improving your exercise program.
1. Stay active: Parkinson’s Disease does not make you weak. Individuals with PD usually lose muscle mass because they decrease their physical activity, once diagnosed. Keep up with your strength training. Keep up with your Pilates. Keep up with your yoga. If an activity becomes too difficult, find another activity that works. Whatever you need to do to stay active, do it.
2. Add aerobic activity to your program: Numerous research studies have shown that aerobic activity promotes brain health. With Parkinson’s Disease, the brain is the anatomical structure affected. The more we can do to promote brain health, the better.
3. Join a support group: Not many people know what it means to be living with a neurological disorder. But there are other people out there who do know. Being part of a support group will help you realize you that you are not alone is this process.
For individuals with PD who are able to participate in Physical Therapy, reach out to a physical therapist to set up an appointment as soon as possible. Early intervention is one of the key components to promoting a long and healthy lifestyle. If you are located in New York City, Thrive Integrated Physical Therapy is one of the few outpatient clinics in the city that has three physical therapists who are certified in the assessment and treatment of individuals with PD. Please reach out to us so that we can help create a program, that’s specific to your needs and goals!
For more information on scheduling and insurance, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your insurance information through our online portal HERE. We are currently seeing patients in our downtown clinic and via telehealth, for those who prefer to see a therapist from the safety of their home. We look forward to partnering with you on your care.
Duane Grell, PT, DPT, NCS, CMPT, MSCS, CSCS, LSVT BIG Certified, centers his treatment approach around driver assessment and movement analysis, addressing any underlying movement dysfunctions or arthrokinematic issues that may be causing the musculoskeletal dysfunction. When working with clients with neurological impairments, Duane follows an ICF (International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health) based approach, identifying and addressing the specific body function or movement that is causing the activity and participation limitations. (read more)