Physical Therapy for Parkinson’s

Physical Therapy for Parkinson’s disease (PD) may have been controversial many years ago, but it is recommended today. I recently completed 12 weeks of supervised Physical Therapy two or three times a week. I enjoyed the sessions, and the cumulative impact of the therapy was good. I appreciated the congratulations from staff when I ‘graduated’ at the end.

Unfortunately, I fell at home that evening when I lost my balance as I was turning. I hurt my left lower backside rather badly, and it was very painful to move around for a week or so. After examining me and reviewing imaging of the area involved, my family doctor concluded I should improve with conservative management.

I improved slowly over the following days and weeks. I’m not yet at pre-fall levels of activity. I’m moving in that direction, inspired by the gains I had made with physical therapy.

The Parkinson’s Foundation provides guidelines for four types of exercise. Following are the four types with some guidelines and commentary.

1. Aerobic: This includes activities like walking, running, swimming, and bicycling. The goal is to do one of these for 30 minutes at least 3 days a week. Walking may be the safest and best choice for anyone with PD. It’s fine to start with 10- or 15-minute sessions and gradually increase the length of time to the 30-minute goal. The time can then be extended as desired.

2. Strength: This involves major muscle groups using resistance bands or weights or weight machines. The goal is to do this in sets of 10-15 repetitions for 30 minutes, two or three days a week. Supervision and training are a good idea at first.

3. Balance: This involves weight shifting and balance exercises. Supervision and grab bars to hold if needed are important for those who are less stable. Activities like yoga, tai chi, dancing, and shadowboxing are helpful for many clients.

4. Stretching: This can be done before other exercise routines or as individual exercises. Supervision by a physical therapist is advisable for those beginning to exercise.

My therapy included basic elements from all four types. They are all valuable. I’m thankful for the physical therapy I received and I recommend it to anyone with Parkinson’s.