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Parkinson’s Disease is a neurodegenerative condition that occurs due to changes to an area in the brain called the basal ganglia. The main function of the basal ganglia is initiating and coordinating movement. Parkinson’s disease is often characterised by slowness of movement, difficulty initiating movement, flexed posture, smaller steps, freezing or slowness in walking, difficulty multitasking and reduced balance. Due to these symptoms, individuals living with Parkinson’s Disease often find everyday activities more difficult and experience reduced independence.

Medical and surgical interventions continue to develop in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. However, despite these treatments, people’s symptoms gradually progress due to the degenerative nature of the condition. 

The role of a physiotherapist is to assist individuals with Parkinson’s disease to maintain or improve their ability to walk, balance, avoid falls, participate in activities they enjoy, to stand up and get out of bed, improve posture and their independence through individualised, research-based therapy strategies. Physiotherapists want to help you to maximise your abilities and enhance your quality of life. 

It is a common misconception that there is no need for physiotherapy until the symptoms of your Parkinson’s disease are more prominent. However, it is best to begin seeing a physiotherapist as soon as possible after your initial diagnosis to begin performing targeted exercises. Exercise will assist to reduce the severity of your symptoms and prevent/slowing down any physical decline. It is best to attend to any symptoms early and have therapy tailored to the stage of your condition. 

Some common techniques physiotherapists may use to assist you to include – 

  • Visual cueing 
  • Aerobic training 
  • Music/audio cues 
  • LSVT Big training 
  • Treadmill walking 
  • Resistance training 
  • Multitasking 
  • Movement strategy training 
  • Balance training 
  • Posture re-education 
  • Stretches/flexibility exercises 
  • Walking BIG and FAST 

Other areas with good evidence that physiotherapists might encourage you to participate in include dancing (tango!) and tai chi. 

Physiotherapists will also ask you to move BIG and FAST. Why? Parkinson’s disease causes individuals to feel they are moving at a normal speed or doing normal sized movements, however, their movements are actually slower and smaller. Thus, big and fast movements help to ‘recalibrate’ the individual’s perception of the way they are moving towards normal, bypassing the dysfunctioning basal ganglia. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, move FAST and give us a call today. Our skilled physiotherapists are BIG believers in creating a tailored home or supervised exercise program to assist you in managing your symptoms and keeping your independence.

References

Radder et al. (2020). Physiotherapy in Parkinson’s Disease: A meta-analysis of present treatment modalities. Neurorehabilitation Neural Repair, 34(10), 871-880. 

Janssens et al. (2014). Application of LSVT BIG intervention to address gait, balance, bed mobility and dexterity in people with Parkinson Disease: A case series. Physical Therapy, 94(7), 1014-1023.

Peterka, Odorfer, Schwab, Volkmann & Zeller. (2020). LSVT-BIG therapy in Parkinson’s disease: Physiological evidence for proprioceptive recalibration. BMC Neurology, 20(276), 660-680.