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Physical Therapy Shown to Help Parkinson’s Disease Patients Stay Active

Parkinson’s disease, the second most common degenerative brain disorder after Alzheimer’s disease, can greatly affect a person’s ability to move and remain active in daily life. Physical therapy has been shown to help patients remain physically active, and programs designed specifically for Parkinson’s disease patients might delay disease progression.

Parkinson’s disease patients lose nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine, a chemical that plays an important role in controlling movement. Symptoms, which typically arise around age 60 and can vary widely, but can include rigidity, tremor, slowness with movement and balance problems, according to an April 18, 2013 press release by the American Physical Therapy Association.

“A common early symptom is a tremor in one hand or in the legs, most often while at rest. Tremors typically go away when moving and don’t interfere substantially with daily function at this stage,” says American Physical Therapy Association spokesperson and physical therapist Terry Ellis, assistant professor at Boston University College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Ellis has focused her research on the impact of exercise and rehabilitation on the progression of disability in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

The condition progresses, with movements becoming smaller, muscles becoming stiffer or more rigid. Some get the sense of their feet “freezing” to the floor, making it difficult to take a first step.

Physical therapy and medication are among the gold standard treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

“Depending on the nature and severity of the condition, a treatment program may focus on improving fitness level, strength, and flexibility; developing effective strategies to get in and out of bed, chairs, and cars; learning to turn over in bed more easily; standing and turning to change directions more efficiently; and improving the smoothness and coordination of walking,” Ellis says.

One particular therapy for Parkinson disease’s that has been shown to help is LSVT BIG. The aim of LSVT BIG is to engage patients in a program that retrains their brains and bodies to make the expansive movements.

“The treatment emphasizes big, repetitive motions and operatic voice exercises to help patients speak louder, correct their posture and walk with agility instead of taking baby steps,” according to a January 20, 2011 article in the Sun-Sentinel.

For more information about what physical therapists can do specifically to treat Parkinson’s patients, as well as detailed information about the LSVT BIG program, contact A Physical Therapist, Inc.

A Physical Therapist, Inc., is a one-on-one physical therapy clinic in Delray Beach, Fla., and Harrisburg, Penn. For patients in Palm Beach County, A Physical Therapist, Inc., is easily accessible from Boca Raton or Boynton Beach. For patients in Dauphin County, A Physical Therapist, Inc., is easily accessible from Hershey and Marysville.

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