Rehabilitation Can Ease Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Published: May 16, 2016

Parkinson’s disease is related to a loss of nerve cells in your brain that produce a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is important for controlling movement.

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common degenerative brain disease with Alzheimer’s being the first.

Most often, symptoms will begin around 60 years of age. Symptoms typically include stiffness (rigidity), shaking (tremor), slowness with movement, abnormal walking and balance problems. Because of these symptoms, people with Parkinson’s disease are at risk of falling and breaking their bones.

As the condition progresses, you may notice other symptoms such as: movements becoming smaller, shuffling when you walk, and arms swinging less when you walk. Your handwriting may trail off at the end of a sentence. You may experience stiffness or rigidity with your muscles, postural instability, or a stooped posture. Movements become slower when doing daily activities such as dressing, showering or moving in bed. You may also feel as if your feet have frozen to the floor, making it hard to take a first step.

Dysarthria (difficulty speaking) and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and decreased control of the muscles of facial expression can also occur in Parkinson’s and these symptoms can be improved with speech therapy intervention. Speech therapists help maintain your communication skills and teach techniques that conserve energy. They can teach you to speak more slowly and loudly and how to maintain strength and control in the appropriate muscles used for speech and swallowing.

Occupational therapy can address challenges in activities of daily living due to Parkinson’s such as tremors, fatigue and decreased balance. They can assist with handwriting, self-feeding, dressing, energy conservation, grooming, and adapting your home for safety.

There is no way to prevent Parkinson’s disease. However, therapists can instruct in techniques and methods to compensate for, combat, reduce or deter symptoms. Early intervention is extremely beneficial. Studies have shown that people who participated in an exercise program improved walking, balance, strength, flexibility and fitness. Studies also indicated that people gradually lose the gain they made when their exercise program ended. Therapy can help develop good long-term exercise habits.

For more information about Lutheran SeniorLife’s outpatient rehabilitation services, click here.

*Information adapted in part from APTA education article Parkinson's Disease

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