Nearly 1 million people live with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Second only to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s is one of the most common degenerative brain disorders affecting adults with causes linked to aging, genetic and environmental factors.
Early signs of Parkinson’s disease include:
- Decreased nonmotor symptoms, such as sense of smell
- Sleep problems
- Lightheadedness when standing up
- Joint stiffness
- Shaking in the hands and limbs
As a result of these symptoms, people with Parkinson’s disease begin to struggle with balance and movement. Not only does this put you at risk of falling and sustaining injuries, but it also makes daily tasks a challenge. Even something as simple as getting out of a chair can cause your confidence to waver.
The combined loss of confidence and physical function makes the body’s movements uncertain, requiring a lot of extra motions or steps for the simplest of actions. It completely saps your energy, and unfortunately, usually leads to a lack of activity.
But the trick is, it is actually activity – exercise and movement – that has proven to be the best way to slow the course of Parkinson’s disease.
How Can Physical Therapy Help?
Any type of therapy starts with putting you in an environment of reduced fear and uncertainty. This is also true of physical therapy, which allows you to learn to overcome the fear of falling and the uncertainty with your own body in order to remain active.
Physical therapy can offer you Parkinson’s treatment in four ways:
Parkinson’s causes painful muscle stiffness, which can limit the body’s range of motion. Stretching can help to maintain range of motion, but it requires a lot of energy and can be difficult to do alone. A physical therapist can perform assisted stretching to safely get to angles that are difficult to realize on your own.
Physical therapy for Parkinson’s can improve your ability to stay physically upright. There are different movements and exercises that work towards improving postural muscles, which can also work towards maintaining mobility.
Good Parkinson’s treatment will teach you how to conserve energy so that you can remain independently mobile. Physical therapy offers the chance to learn about balance concepts and body mechanics that can make everyday tasks (e.g., getting up off a toilet) much more manageable. Sometimes, it just takes a little practice to regain lost confidence.
Determining the best type and amount of exercise to do can be challenging, particularly as your symptoms change and some periods of time might have you feeling better than others. Your
physical therapist can prescribe and teach you a safe exercise routine that considers your medical history and current physical condition.
When’s the Right Time to See a Physical Therapist?
Patients often come to physical therapists after they have entered a moderate or even a severe stage and energy becomes more of a premium. This is often when they notice symptoms such as:
- Stiffness of muscles and a feeling of rigidity, causing discomfort and pain in the shoulders, neck, and chest.
- Movements becoming smaller, often leading to shuffling and arms swinging less while walking.
- “Stooping” and postural instability.
- A common feeling that it is hard to take a first step or turn around, and that the feet are “frozen” to the floor.
However, the more significant the symptoms, the harder it can be to make gains and reverse some of the impact of Parkinson’s. The earlier you receive physical therapy, the more effective it is.
In addition to using these signs and symptoms as gauges, it’s also a good idea to see a physical therapist if you are about to start or change PD medications. Often, medications for PD can have an immediate effect, making movement easier. This is an ideal time to work with a physical therapist, who can help time your treatments, activity, and exercises based on your medication.
But be sure to be selective when finding a physical therapist. They will be someone who will help you and your family develop personal strategies to deal with realities of the disease. Choose someone you trust and feel a connection with; someone who will take the time and have the attention to detail to get to know the nuances of your condition as it progresses. Remember, your physical therapist will be working with you on and off for the long haul.
At Clear Choice Physical Therapy, we want our patients to feel as comfortable and safe as possible. We take the time to evaluate your condition through a variety of tests that examine your posture, strength, flexibly, walking, endurance, balance, coordination and attention with movement. And we listen, leading to a true partnership that helps you:
- Manage your symptoms
- Maintain fitness levels – without hurting yourself
- Make smart adjustments to daily functions
- Choose the right medical equipment, when the time is right
- Include your family and friends as a support system
Why Clear Choice Physical Therapy?
Everyone’s symptoms and progression are different. As the disease runs its course, you will have periods of time when you will need direct, hands-on care from your physical therapist. You will also go through stretches where you are managing on your own, working to maintain your exercise regime and staying in tune to when adjustments might be needed.
As our patients transition from treatment to maintenance, they can do so at The Fitness Clinic, which is where Clear Choice Physical Therapy is located. This allows their physical therapist to instruct the fitness staff about the patient’s particular exercising needs. What’s more, it allows the patient access to their physical therapist on a regular basis in order to monitor progress and adjust exercises. This unique feature of Clear Choice makes it easy for our patients to keep up with their prescribed exercise regimes, which has been consistently linked to slowed progression of Parkinson’s disease.
A Parkinson’s diagnosis is sure to present a number of concerns, but paying for treatment shouldn’t be one of them. If you are enrolled in Medicare, know that the old “therapy caps” have been removed, making medically necessary physical therapy accessible to plan participants throughout the year. At Clear Choice Physical Therapy, we will work with you to help you navigate coverage questions and get the treatment you need. Contact us today to see how we can help treat Parkinson’s disease and other concerns that might be affecting your well-being.