Parkinson’s Disease

Introduction

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive neurological disorder affecting 1.5 million Americans.  Symptoms and progression vary from person to person, and may include tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness of movement) and postural instability.  Parkinson’s disease reduces the ability to initiate a desired movement, as learned movement patterns are not occurring automatically.  Other automatic movements such as smiling or blinking may also be diminished or lost.

Many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease result from a lack of dopamine (a chemical messenger in the brain which controls movement).  The cause of Parkinson’s disease is still unknown, and there is no cure at this time.  There are, however, many different types of medications that can help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Minneapolis Clinic of Neurology Parkinson’s Disease Rehabilitation

After a complete examination by a neurologist, physical and/or occupational therapy may be recommended as part of the overall treatment program.  During an initial visit, the physical and occupational therapists perform an evaluation and establish a treatment plan.  The number of therapy visits is determined based on the individual’s needs.  Both will provide safety training, including education on fall prevention, as indicated.  Home programs are often established to allow a person to continue performing exercises independently or with the assistance of caregivers for maintaining or further improving function.

Physical Therapy  A physical therapy evaluation includes assessing gait (walking), balance, posture, general mobility, range of motion and strength.  Specific standardized tests may also be performed to help determine the risk of falling.  An individualized program will then be designed to maintain or increase flexibility, strength, improve posture, gait and balance.  The benefit of using an assistive device to increase safety is determined.

Occupational Therapy  An occupational therapy evaluation includes assessing performance with activities of daily living (ADL), functional mobility (moving from place to place, such as in bathroom or kitchen), upper extremity strength, coordination, and cognition.  Treatment programs include education on use of compensatory techniques, such as use of adaptive equipment, to increase safety and independence with ADLs; strengthening and coordination activities; tremor management; and cognitive retraining activities.

While physical and occupational therapy can’t stop the progression of Parkinson’s disease, it can provide skills to help maintain or improve function and mobility to maximize independence in daily living activities.  Exercise is important for everyone, but it is essential for someone with Parkinson’s disease to help achieve and maintain the highest quality of life.