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How can exercise help people affected by a Parkinson’s diagnosis?

Nicole Sauve, PTA, CBIS | Feb 20, 2020

A Parkinson’s diagnosis can be daunting. If you—or a loved one—are affected by Parkinson’s, you’re likely familiar with symptoms like stiffness and slowed movements. But, understanding Parkinson’s and its effects helps us understand a practice that may help lessen symptoms: therapy.

therapist providing resident therapy

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting the brain’s chemicals. About 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s, though men are more likely to have the disease. Symptoms of Parkinson’s include tremors, muscle rigidity, impaired posture and balance, and general loss of automatic movements—all of which can increase fall risk and impact safety. Unfortunately, Parkinson’s disease does not yet have a cure, but there are ways to manage symptoms through healthy lifestyle changes like exercise, medication management, and therapy.

How Does Therapy Help Parkinson's Disease?

Engaging in therapy focused on exercise and lifestyle changes can counteract symptoms of Parkinson’s. Therapy can also increase overall survival rates, improve cognition, and reduce the severity of motor and non-motor symptoms. A skilled therapist trained in special Parkinson’s programs, such as LSVT Big or PWR!Moves, can provide tools to help manage symptoms successfully.

  • LSVT Big: This therapy protocol, supported by 25 years of research, improves the mobility, flexibility, and overall quality of life of those impacted by Parkinson’s. Certified skilled physical therapists and occupational therapists lead the program, focusing on education about recognizing when and how to make small movements larger. This leads to increased motion and mobility, affecting daily life, improving comfort, and increasing confidence with everyday movements.
  • PWR!Moves: This program provides Parkinson’s-specific exercises and training for restoring and maintaining movements that deteriorate with the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Developed by the creator of the LSVT Big program, this method includes performing large amplitude and high-effort exercises. These exercises target areas interfering with successful mobility: PWR! Up, Rock, Twist, and Step. For someone with Parkinson’s, these exercises help increase mobility and coordination while decreasing rigidity.

Therapy is often beneficial to people with a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Through exercise, they can improve walking speed, walking mechanics, balance, and flexibility. Programs vary on length and involvement, but the knowledge gained through exercise therapy can be used throughout life to improve and maintain mobility and movement.

Therapy at Walker Methodist

At Walker Methodist, we strive to provide the best care for our residents and community members impacted by a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Partnering with Struthers Parkinson’s network, we equip therapy and rehabilitation staff with up-to-date education and training. Our clinicians specialized in the LSVT and PWR!Moves programs are experts in treating symptoms with specialized, personal care.

Learn More About Parkinson's Care at Walker Methodist


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