April is Parkinson’s disease awareness month!! Did you know that one million individuals in the United States are living with this disease? Physical Therapy has always been a component of care for individuals with Parkinson’s. The past twenty years of rehabilitative research has revealed several important findings which physical therapists who specialize with this patient population would like patients to know. The earlier care is initiated, the better the outcomes. It used to be that persons were not referred for therapy until much disability had occurred or if someone was experiencing falls. Now, there are proven interventions to address the disease early so that patients can be empowered to know what exercises and habits can help them even in the earliest stages. Being involved in activity and movement is very important. Rigidity (a form of muscle tightness) of the axial (spinal) muscles can be present even in the early stages and learning to improve mobility in this body region can carry over to being able to maintain long term functional capabilities. There is also a sensory/motor disconnect whereby patients feel they are moving as big as they can when in fact they are not. This change is very subtle over time and the patient is often unaware of it until someone else points it out to them. Aerobic conditioning is very important to maintain at all stages of the disease and patients can benefit from guidance on how to incorporate this into their lives. Postural changes can also be a subtle progression with this disease and can be improved with exercise and patient education. Tremor remains resistant to interventions to stop it but there are compensatory techniques which can be learned in order to cope with tremor.
At Optimal Physical Therapy, we offer the LSVT BIG program which is an intensive four week, four times a week one on one hour long intervention to help patients “re-calibrate” their movement capacity make functional gains and maintain gains. We also offer individualized traditional therapy approaches for persons who may not be able to commit to an intensive program. The important thing to do is to get involved doing something!!!! If you or someone you care about has Parkinson’s and you wish to learn more about how we can help, please call us at (724)779-1300.