Parkinson’s disease is a condition that affects the central nervous system of the body. There is a reduction in the levels of dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that is produced in the brain. The reduced dopamine levels cause involuntary tremors and stiffness in many parts of the body. This can significantly impact the daily lives of individuals.
Physical therapy can aid patients with Parkinson’s and ensure that they live an active and healthy life with very little effect of the disease on their daily routines.
How Is Physical Therapy Helpful In Parkinson’s Disease?
Various researches conducted in 2021 and 2022 prove that regular exercise and physical therapy can significantly increase the functionality and mobility of individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This has a more long-lasting outcome as the disease is progressive in nature.
Listed below are a few positive changes you might observe with regular physical therapy if you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease:
- Increased body strength
- Increase in the flexibility of joints and muscles
- Increased circulation
- Reduced pain and stiffness
- Improved breathing techniques
- Prevention of falls and improved balance
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
- Slow physical movement
- Postural dysfunctions
- Muscle cramps
- Difficulty in breathing or swallowing
How Common Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Though the number changes significantly with time, some experts estimate that around 90,000 people receive a diagnosis each year.
The Parkinson’s Foundation has also reported the number to have shown a steady increase over the past few years.
Who Is More At Risk For Parkinson’s?
Most people who receive a diagnosis for the disease are above the age of 50 years. However, in recent times, it has been speculated that around 4% of the population being diagnosed is below the age of 45 years.
Parkinson’s tends to affect males more than it does females. However, there is still no conclusive evidence to define whether males or females face the debilitating effects of the disease.
What Is The Cause Of Parkinson’s?
Sadly, there is no exact cause of the disease that has been determined. Parkinson’s is believed to be caused due to a combination of both genetic and environmental factors.
Pesticides, air pollution and industrial chemicals could increase the risk of Parkinson’s, as could radioactive exposure over a prolonged period of time.
Is Parkinson’s Hereditary?
Around 10 – 15% of people with Parkinson’s have a positive family history, so it is difficult to conclude whether or not the disease can be passed down.
Some ethnic groups, like the Ashkenazi Jews, are more likely to carry the gene for the disease.
What Does The Physical Therapy Management For Parkinson’s Include?
A Physical Therapist can help you with the following:
Strength and Flexibility
Since stiffness and rigidity can be very harmful after the diagnosis of Parkinson’s, the primary job of your therapist will be to ensure that you do not suffer from the long-term complications of stiffness. For this they will employ a number of stretching techniques and flexibility drills and exercises.
The risk of falling increases greatly after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s. To combat this, your therapist will engage you in a number of activities to boost your balance and ensure that you feel more secure while moving about.
This is another form of training that your therapist might use to ensure that you relearn all the reciprocal patterns that are necessary for daily living (like the side-to-side swinging of the arms) Your reciprocal patterns might be affected due to the disease and they will need to be reactivated quickly.
Your overall strength and fitness might also be reduced after a diagnosis of the disease. Your therapist will advise you on the exercises that you must perform on a regular basis, either at home or at the clinic to regain your original strength.
Is It Possible To Prevent Parkinson’s Disease?
It is not possible to prevent the disease but a few habits have been shown to have a positive effect even after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease:
- Avoiding toxins like alcohol, drugs, nicotine, pesticides etc is shown to reduce the risk of the disease.
- Regular and consistent exercise is one of the most effective methods of combatting the disease as it maintains healthy levels of dopamine in the brain.
- Some studies suggest a link between a certain diet and the reduction of symptoms seen in Parkinson’s. The Mediterranean Diet is said to be a good diet to follow, but there is a lack of conclusive evidence to this claim.