Can physical therapy help you control Parkinson’s disease?

Can physical therapy help you control Parkinson’s disease?

Can physical therapy help you control Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD), the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, has increased dramatically, with six million people affected worldwide. Physiotherapy can play an important role in helping patients live a better quality of life.

With a prevalence of 51 to 439 per 1 lakh and an annual incidence of 2 to 28 per 1 lakh, the disease occurs mainly in later life with generalized slowing of movements.

It is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that occurs due to decreased production of dopamine, a chemical found in the brain that regulates body movement. This dopamine imbalance leads to two main physical manifestations: tremors and postural instability.

What are the common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

Common symptoms include slow movements, tremors at rest, stooped posture, and stiffness, progressively resulting in social withdrawal and significantly affecting quality of life.

People diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease are initially started on medical treatment to maintain the correct levels of dopamine in the nervous system. Despite medical therapies and surgical interventions for Parkinson’s, patients develop progressive disabilities.

Parkinson's diseaseEvery year on April 11, the world celebrates Parkinson’s Day. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

The role of physical therapy is to increase functional capacity and reduce complications through movement rehabilitation. The ultimate goal is to promote independence, safety and well-being, thereby improving quality of life.

Exercise is quite beneficial for Parkinson’s patients. But physical therapy, in particular, offers a promising solution. A professional equipped with the right skills can guide you through the correct moves to increase mobility, strength, and balance.

Evidence-based and Parkinson-specific physical therapy protocols have been shown to achieve better results.

How can physical therapy help patients with Parkinson’s disease?

A couple of training interventions have been shown to be effective in Parkinson’s disease, they include

1. Conventional PT, which includes free range of motion and active exercises, has been found to improve gait in PD patients by improving gait capacity, speed, and cadence.

2. Treadmill training with beneficial effects on movement outcomes, including walking ability and speed

3. Strategy training, including cues, was found to be effective in improving balance.

Also Read: Trying New Walking Strategies May Help Parkinson’s Patients, Study Suggests

Parkinson's diseaseDid you know that Parkinson’s can also affect young people? Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Aerobic exercises (exercises that improve muscle oxygenation) help in balance and gait training, and hydrotherapy (exercises performed in water have beneficial effects on fear of falls and balance)

5. Virtual reality and the use of computer-based games in a virtual reality environment have been shown to increase patient motivation and engagement

6. Gradual resistance exercise training increased muscle strength in PD patients with sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass). Research has shown that 30 to 40 minutes of resistance exercise has positive effects on leg muscle strength, transfers, and walking speed.

Also read: World Parkinson’s Day 2022: Learn all about how the disease can affect young people

physiotherapyDo the exercises under the guidance of an expert. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

the last words

An exercise regimen should be selected for each patient after consulting a physical therapist who will help design the appropriate treatment plan according to the stage and progress of the disease. Because Parkinson’s disease is chronic and progressive, patients must be equipped with the necessary skills to perform the exercises at home or in the community long-term so that the therapeutic effects can be sustained.

The article has been co-authored by Dr. Raghuveer Raghumahanti, Associate Professor, Gitam School of Physiotherapy, GITAM (Regarded as University) and Dr. Anishma Chungath, Assistant Professor, Gitam School of Physiotherapy, GITAM (Regarded as University).


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