Physiotherapy for Parkinson’s Disease 

What is Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a movement disorder caused by damage to the nerve cells that produce dopamine, a chemical that helps the body coordinate movement. Parkinson’s impacts an estimated 100,000 in Australia, with 38 people being diagnosed every day.   

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease and symptoms slowly develop and progress over time. The progression of symptoms will vary from person to person.

What are the Symptoms of Parkinson’s

The type of symptoms and the progressions of symptoms will be different in every person.
Symptoms may include;

  • tremor
  • slowness of movement
  • limb stiffness
  • walking
  • poor balance
  • changes in speech
  • changes in writing

On average, repeated falls start 10 years after the first symptoms of Parkinson’s. Most people with Parkinson’s will eventually have decreased balance and will suffer repeated falls.  

How Can Exercise Help People with Parkinson’s

Exercise can provide benefits for people with Parkinson’s, and should be tailored to the individual. Exericse may help with;

  • Improving motor function.
  • Walking ability.
  • Strengthening muscles.
  • Improving fitness.
  • Improvements in mood.
  • May help with cognition.
  • Assist with fatigue. management

What can you expect from Physiotherapy – Assessment

The role of physiotherapists for people with Parkinson’s Disease is to work towards improving quality of life by maintaining or increasing an individual’s independence, safety, and wellbeing.

At your first appointment with a Physiotherapist you can expect a thorough history taking, including diagnosis timeline, other co-morbidities, discussion of functional issues and goals. Then we will conduct a thorough physical examination directed by what you have told us in your interview. Physical examination may include assesing;

  • How you get out of a chair.
  • What your walking is like.
  • Your muscle strength.
  • Your balance.
  • How you manipulate small objects.

When on medications for Parkinson’s disease, you may have on/off periods of the day. It is recommend you schedule physiotherapy during an ‘on’ phase – when your movement is the most efficient.  

What can you expect from Physiotherapy – Treatment

Once the assessment has been completed, it is now time to develop treatment strategies. Physiotherapists use a wide range of strategies to assist people with Parkinson’s move and function more efficiently and maintain their function. Strategies your physiotherapist may use include;

  • Cognitive movement strategies.
  • Cueing strategies – which may be visual, tactile or auditory.
  • Exercises for balance.
  • Retraining walking.
  • Strength exercises.
  • Exercises for your hand and arms.
  • Trialling different walking aids.
  • Aquatic physiotherapy.
  • “Big” movements.

Your physiotherapist will ensure an individualised management depending on your needs, abilities, and goals.  It will also take into account on the severity of the Parkinson’s Disease at the time.

Physiotherapists work as part of a multi-disciplinary team. People with Parkinson’s Disease will often be seeing a range of other health professionals and medical team, such as neurologists, occupational therapists, and speech pathologies.  If you need help from another professional and you currently don’t have one, we have a list of trusted providers we can refer you to.

If you have a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, consider how a physiotherapist may assist you in achieving your functional goals.  You can call us to find out more, or book an appointment by calling us on (07) 5448 1155 or email [email protected]

Neve Cavanagh APAM

References

KNGF Guidelines for physical therapy in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Supplement to the Dutch Journal of Physiotherapy Parkinson’s disease. Volume 114 / Issue 3 / 2004 

About Parkinson’s – Shake It Up Australia Foundation. (2022). Retrieved 18 March 2022, from https://shakeitup.org.au/understanding-parkinsons/ 

Neuroprotective Benefits of Exercise – Parkinson’s Foundation. (2021). Retrieved 8th April 2022 from https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Treatment/Exercise/Neuroprotective-Benefits-of-Exercise

Other places you can find out more

https://scnr.com.au/conditions/parkinsons-disease/

https://www.parkinsons.org.au/

Physiotherapy For Parkinson's Disease