It is estimated that more than 10 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This disease is defined as “A chronic progressive neurological disorder caused by the lack of dopamine production in the brain.” The average duration of Parkinson’s disease is between 10-13 years with direct and indirect costs equating to more than 25 billion dollars each year for the U.S. alone.
Characteristics of Parkinson’s Disease
The four Cardinal signs of Parkinson’s Disease include:
- Tremor: A tremor or shaking that is most common in the hand or fingers.
- Postural instability: Forward bent posture that often contributes to poor balance and increased risk for falls.
- Rigidity: Muscle and skeletal stiffness that makes patients feel as if it “Is hard to move”
- Bradykinesia: Slowed movement. This often makes simple tasks take longer than expected.
Can Physical Therapy Help?
Physical therapists receive extensive training on neurological diseases and treatment options to help slow their progression. For patients with Parkinson’s Disease, research has shown that early intervention is key to slow its progressive nature. Several programs have been developed, including the LSVT Big and Loud program, that have shown promising results in improving movement, safety, and independence for patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Falls are among the top 3 causes of hospitalization and/or death in this patient population. Research has shown that within 10 years of diagnosis, 25% of PD patients will develop a hip fracture. Your physical therapist will focus on several different areas over your course of treatment including: decreasing rigidity and incorporating large movement patterns to promote mobility, whole body strengthening and flexibility. Your physical therapist should also focus on postural correction techniques and balance training to improve safety and decrease risk for falls.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, consult a physical therapist near you for an evaluation and personalized plan of care tailored to your specific needs.
Jared Howell, PT, DPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Clinical Director at Total Therapy Florida Osprey