Physiotherapy treatment to improve quality of life
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disease with symptoms that begin gradually and worsen over time. Initially, the disease affects one side of the body, but often leads to both sides being impaired. It’s a complex condition affecting the functioning of the brain which results in a variety of symptoms.
Parkinson’s disease is due to the gradual death of nerve cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. These nerve cells produce a chemical messenger called dopamine. The death of these cells leads to a decrease in dopamine levels, causing abnormal brain activity, which in turn results in movement disorders and other Parkinson’s symptoms.
Parkinson’s results in changes in the following areas:
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be divided into motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms.
Common motor symptoms may include:
- Walking difficulties (small, slow steps with a shuffling gait, or sometimes freezing of gait)
- Stiffness of the limbs and trunk (rigidity)
- Slowness of movement (bradykinesia)
- Impaired balance (postural instability)
- Tremors (at rest)
Non-motor problems may include, but are not limited to:
- Changes in handwriting (micrographia)
- Speech changes (dysphonia)
- Swallowing difficulties
- Postural hypotension
- Cognitive changes
- Sleep disorders
- Loss of smell
Parkinson’s is difficult to diagnose as there are no specific tests. Diagnosis is based on your history, symptoms and a neurological medical examination. If your GP suspects you have Parkinson’s, a referral to a neurologist with experience in movement disorders is important to assist in confirming the diagnosis and for ongoing management.
How we can help
Treatment for Parkinson’s disease
Although there’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease, a variety of interventions are available to manage your symptoms.
Although Parkinson’s symptoms are a result of low dopamine levels, dopamine can’t be given directly as it can’t directly enter the brain. There are a variety of Parkinson’s medications used to increase or substitute for dopamine. Although drugs can initially assist in managing Parkinson’s symptoms, the benefits of drugs will often decrease over time. It’s recommended that you have a neurologist who specialises in movement disorders as part of your healthcare team, to work with you and your GP for the best medical management of your Parkinson’s.
Deep Brain Stimulation
Deep Brain Stimulation or DBS is an option that is sometimes used to manage symptoms for people with Parkinson’s. It refers to a surgical procedure involving the implanting of electrodes and electrical stimulation into specific parts of the brain. If you would like to know more about DBS, we recommend talking to your neurologist.
After doing a comprehensive personal and physical assessment, your neurological physiotherapist will sit down with you to develop an individualised therapy plan. Parkinson’s is a progressive disease and physiotherapy will work with you to maximise your function and safety.
Your therapy plan may include exercises, recommendations for equipment, strategies to manage your symptoms and education. Exercise may include aerobic exercise, strengthening exercises, exercises aimed at improving your balance and walking. We’ll also work closely with other members of your team to make sure we’re all on the same page.
A multi-disciplinary team approach is most effective, as this means different areas of your life are addressed by experienced health professionals. We prefer a team approach, working closely with a Neurologist, Occupational Therapist, Dietitian, Speech Therapist and, when needed, a Psychologist.