April is Parkinson's Awareness Month, highlighting National Parkinson’s Day on April 11th, so a post about the disease seems fitting to kick off our month of visibility at Concierge Orthopedics. Let's take a look at this disease, learn about treatment recommendations, and uncover how someone diagnosed with Parkinson's can continue living a quality life!
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disease that, if dealt with early on, can be managed and one's quality of life can be improved through both medication and exercise. PT is a paramount piece in this devastating puzzle; "it aims to help individuals with Parkinson's disease remain active and independent as long as possible. According to a recent meta-analysis, physical therapy significantly improves symptoms related to motor skills." (Parkinson's Foundation, 2022) Though it is a progressive condition, catching the early warning signs can help significantly deter the harsher symptoms and severity of immobility until much later on.
Some of the early warning signs include:
Tremors- slight shaking while at rest of fingers, thumbs, hands, or chin.
Smaller handwriting- have you noticed your handwriting has gotten smaller or words are scrunched together?
Loss of smell
Trouble sleeping- sudden movements during sleep or acting out dreams
Trouble moving or walking- decreased arm swing, stiffer movement in your body, arms, or legs that do not go away. Stiffness/pain in hips and shoulders or feet seem heavy or glued to the floor.
Constipation- trouble moving bowels without straining.
Softer or lower voice or hoarseness.
Masked face- a depressed or upset look on your face even when not in a bad mood
Dizziness or fainting- this can be low blood pressure but can also be linked to Parkinson’s disease
Stooping or hunching over- not standing up as straight as you used to.
Of course one of these signs alone may not be Parkinson’s disease and may occur in isolated instances. If you experience one or many of these symptoms, please refer to the link above for more information.
So, I have some of the warning signs... Now what?
Consult with your doctor. There are tests that can be done to further diagnose and determine the possibility of Parkinson’s disease.
If it is Parkinson’s? Medication and exercise are key. If you haven’t been on an exercise routine, consult with a physical therapist to build an effective and strategic plan. If you have been active, check with your PT to make sure you are doing so safely and that your plan is conducive to remaining mobile. Parkinson’s disease needs to be addressed with the right kinds of exercise. A great resource is Parkinson’s Disease and the Art of Moving, John Argue (2000). This book is a wealth of information on exercises specifically designed for Parkinson’s disease. Each exercise and lesson is carefully implemented in a series of lessons meant to keep individuals with Parkinson’s disease moving, and in some cases prevent decline and even reverse some of the symptoms. The program in this book is designed for all levels of Parkinson’s disease.
Another exercise-based treatment to look into is the LSVT BIG program. This is an intensive 1 on 1 treatment program provided by a Physical Therapist. Visit the website lsvtglobal.com for more information and speak with your doctor/ neurologist or physical/ occupational therapist about this program.
Check out THIS VIDEO for more information on this process!
The important thing to know is that people can and do live with Parkinson’s disease. Do not wait if you or your loved ones begin showing symptoms of this disease- if caught early, a team of Doctors and PTs can make a world of difference in the outcome of your diagnosis! The earlier you start to manage the disease the more quality of life and quality of movement you will have. Physical therapy and occupational therapy are big pieces of managing this disease. Let's fight the progression of Parkinson's TOGETHER!
Big thank you to Michael McCoulf, PT, for this insightful and informative piece to kick off Parkinson's Awareness Month! If you would like to schedule a consultation via telehealth, Please contact Michael McCoulf below:
Michael McCoulf, PT
New York, NY
Argue, John. (2000) Parkinson’s disease and the art of moving. Oakland, Ca: New
Harbinger Publications Inc.
LSVT Big Program video https://youtu.be/cV8FjbC_MMw