Parkinson’s disease (PD) can be very frustrating for patients as it severely hampers motor skills. Patients are forced to move slowly and the ‘automated’ involuntary responses seem to go awry, missing the mark most of the time. Parkinson’s patients can easily go from struggling with moving around their homes to taking charge of activities like driving and shopping with the help of physical therapy. Physical therapy can not only relieve patients of physical symptoms such as stiffness, pain, weakness, balance and depth perception but also fosters confidence to reclaim their lives.
Why exercising is important?
It is common for PD patients at early and moderate stage to completely give up exercising as it is painful to move muscles and joints which also worsens with lack of exercise. Thus PD patients are stuck in a vicious circle which can only be broken with exercise. PD makes it difficult for patients to perform complex motor programs and your exercising efforts should be built around it. The loss of ‘Automatic’ response can be countered with exercises that demand attention, repetition, progression of difficulty and promote learning. Exercising will also reduce stiffness in muscles and joints while improving mobility, posture, balance and gait.
How physical therapy/exercise therapy will help?
PD symptoms get worse with time but physical therapy can help you manage them, compensating for the changes brought to your life by this horrible disease. Your physiotherapist/exercise therapist will aim at exercises which will develop your ability to handle day-to-day chores and activities. Physical therapy/exercise therapy exercises will help with balance problems, lack of coordination, fatigue, pain, gait, posture, immobility, and weakness.
What exercises are involved?
Your physiotherapy/exercise therapy plan will involve a good mix of exercise which are learning-based, promotes posture and biomechanics, increases strength and flexibility and stimulates cognitive abilities in patients.
- Hydro / Aquatic Therapy
Aquatic therapy involves performing a variety of exercises in water for relaxation, fitness and rehabilitation. Water provides sufficient resistance (replacing gravity or weights) to improve endurance and its buoyancy provides support to weak muscles improving posture and balance and facilitating fluid movement. Water exercises are favoured highly as they have proven to be very effective being a combination of cardiovascular exercises and resistance training.
- Range of motion
Range of motion exercises may be performed as a part of the aquatic therapy or also on the surface to improve muscle tone, reduce stiffness and increase mobility. The type of exercises recommended will depend on the results of your preliminary evaluation. If you have full range of motion the exercises will focus on maintaining it. If you have limited range of motion exercises targeting your muscles and joints or usage of range of motion machine might be recommended.
- Flexibility exercises
Exercises which involve large, rhythmic movements at full range of motion are performed to improve flexibility levels. Stretching exercises are also recommended by physiotherapists for reducing rigidity.
- Strength training
Strengthen training is performed under strict supervision of a licensed physiotherapist to build-up your muscles and bones to improve posture, balance and gait. The intensity and frequency of exercises depends on individual performance.
Don’t let Parkinson’s disease bog you down. Join a physical therapy program and watch your quality of life improve day by day!