Parkinson's Disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements such as shaking, stiffness and balance and coordination difficulties.  Symptoms of Parkinsons usually begin gradually and worsen over time.  Persons may start to experience mild tremors at first, or experience difficulty rising from a chair.  They may also notice that they speak too softly and that their handwriting changes and becomes cramped or small.  Family members may notice that their loved one's face lacks expression and animation and they may move an arm or leg abnormally.  Parkinson's gait may be present, when the individual has a tendency to lean forward, take small, quick, shuffling steps and reduce their arm swing.  They may have difficulty initiating walking and my have difficulty continuing, with frequent starts and stops.  Many people with Parkinson’s disease note that prior to experiencing stiffness and tremor, they had sleep problems, constipation, loss of smell, and restless legs.

How does Physical Therapy help?

First off, let's talk about flexibility and mobility. Parkinson's can make muscles stiff and rigid, which can make it hard to move around. Physical therapists use exercises and stretches to improve flexibility and keep those muscles limber. This helps patients move more freely and with less discomfort.

Next up, we've got balance and coordination. Parkinson's can throw off your balance and coordination, making simple tasks like walking or reaching for objects a challenge. Physical therapists work on exercises that target these areas, helping patients improve their balance and coordination skills. This can greatly reduce the risk of falls and injuries.

And let's not forget about strength! Parkinson's can weaken muscles over time, making it harder to do everyday activities. Physical therapists design strength-training exercises to help patients build up their muscles and regain strength. This can make a huge difference in maintaining independence and quality of life.

Lastly, but certainly not least, is the importance of movement and exercise. Physical therapy encourages patients with Parkinson's to stay active and keep moving. Whether it's through walking, swimming, or specific exercises, regular physical activity can help manage symptoms and improve overall well-being.

So, in summary, physical therapy plays a vital role in helping individuals with Parkinson's disease stay mobile, balanced, and strong. By addressing flexibility, balance, strength, and encouraging movement, physical therapists empower their patients to live their lives to the fullest despite the challenges posed by Parkinson's.

Michelle O'Neal-Woods

Michelle O'Neal-Woods

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