Sep 22, 2020
Movement issues are central to Parkinson’s disease (PD), even in the early stages before complications may become obvious. From the time of diagnosis and throughout the course of the disease, movement and staying physically active are essential. Both regular exercise and physical therapy can help people with PD keep moving well and for as long as possible. The Parkinson’s Outcomes Project, the largest clinical study of PD, conducted across the Parkinson’s Foundation’s Centers of Excellence network, showed that physical activity of at least 2.5 hours a week can slow decline in quality of life. Plus, some studies suggest that physical therapy, including gait, balance, resistance training, and regular exercise of sufficient duration may slow the progression of the disease.
Physical therapists with a neurological specialization are an important part of the PD health care team and should be consulted early, both for an initial evaluation as well as to address any movement problems and encourage exercise as a part of treatment to minimize problems later. Heather Cianci is Outpatient Neurological Team leader at the Dan Aaron Parkinson’s Rehabilitation Center, part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence. She says an early consultation can take advantage of a particularly valuable window of opportunity to address movement issues, and improving movement and physical impairments can improve one’s mental state as well.