Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a neurodegenerative condition that primarily affects the neurotransmitters in the basal ganglia, a part of the brain that is involved in many functions of the body both directly and indirectly. This includes, but is not limited to, cognition, motivation, voluntary movement, eye movement, emotion and it plays a role in the integration and relaying of sensory input.

The exact cause of Parkinson’s Disease is still unknown but excitingly with current research there is greater understanding that there may be some genetic factors at play. Parkinson’s Disease actually falls under an umbrella term of movement disorders called Parkinsonism, which includes other conditions such as vascular parkinsonism, drug-induced parkinsonism, and other forms of neurodegenerative disorders such as Multi Systems Atrophy (MSA) and Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP).

Parkinson’s Disease can be tracked along the disease progression through many different outcome measures, however it is commonly classified according to the Hoehn and Yahr 5-Stage Scale.

Common challenges:

  • Muscle stiffness

  • Slowed movement

  • Shuffling steps

  • Poor balance

  • Tremors

  • Perseveration

  • Festination

  • Freezing

  • Dystonia

  • Poor cognition

  • Low mood

  • Memory loss

  • Swallowing and speech difficulties

  • Bladder and bowel difficulties

The role of a neurological physiotherapist in Parkinson’s Disease:

Neurological physiotherapists are physiotherapists with additional training and expertise in treating problems related to the brain, spinal cord, inner ear and nerves. Neurological physiotherapists apply their neuroscience knowledge to assess the physical aspects that are affected by Parkinson’s, so as to individualise a treatment strategy and approach that would enable the person to change their movement behaviour.

There is strong evidence that physiotherapy is effective for Parkinson’s Disease, with most of the evidence and therapy targeted towards younger and earlier disease stages where it has been shown to improve quality of life, movement speed and amplitude and ease of movement. This has spurred onto the creation of Parkinson’s specific exercise programs such as LSVT and PD Warrior.

Another body of evidence is building for the use of music and dance as therapeutic activities for people with Parkinson’s, as a method of bypassing the basal ganglia so the brain can access movement through different pathways.

There is also some evidence to suggest that hydrotherapy or pool based programs provide immense benefit for the person with Parkinson’s, as well as tailored home and gym exercise programs that are goal-focused and provide at least moderate intensity to create long lasting change and a reduction in symptom severity or delay in onset.

What our skilled therapists can offer:

  • Thoroughly assess the individual’s neurological systems to determine current and predicted abilities

  • Understand how your medications might impact on your current function

  • Design a personalised neurological rehabilitation program that is holistic and considers the 24-hour routine

  • Provide hands-on treatment to teach the individual how to move better or more efficiently

  • Teach strategies to minimise falls and injury, or to overcome freezing and other movement difficulties

  • Assist in the management of rigidity and muscle tone together with neurologists

  • Provide advice on facilitating a healthy lifestyle and identification of factors that may improve an individual’s daily life

  • Review and prescribe equipment that you may need

  • Liaise with the other health professionals as required to assist in your rehabilitation or health and well-being

  • Write reports as required to advocate for your health and capacity building

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