What is Parkinson’s Disease?
In Australia today there are approximately 80,000 people living with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Parkinson’s Disease is a progressively worsening neurological disease that presents as:
- Tremors or involuntary movements
- Rigidity and stiffness of the muscles
- Difficulty walking and changes to gait
- Slower and uncoordinated movements
- Poor postural control and balance
Neurological disorders like PD are still being understood, with research recently finding positive links between poor gut health and neurodegeneration in the nervous system.
PD is also believed to be associated with genetic mutations and exposure to pesticides, with higher incidences amongst rural residences.
Currently, there is no cure for PD and current management involves the use of a variety of medications.
However, there are many symptoms of PD that can be managed with exercise and non-pharmacological treatments.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease include
- Fatigue, low mood, depression and anxiety
- Constipation and bowel irregularity
- Masked facial expression and reduced vocal volume
- Smaller amplitude movements such as arm swing and stride length
- Decreased mobility and higher risk of falls
- Disturbed or poor-quality sleep
- Targeting the above symptoms at home can be as simple as making a few lifestyle changes. A major area where you can have an impact is exercise.
There is no denying the numerous benefits of exercise, particularly for persons with PD. Many with PD often reduce their physical activity level after the onset of symptoms or after their diagnosis. However, staying active is extremely beneficial and can reduce the severity of many common symptoms. The main areas where exercise can have an impact on PD symptoms include:
- Improved mental health and mood
- Increased cardiovascular fitness
- Decreased falls risk
- Promotes healthy gut motility and can provide relief from constipation
- Greater quality of sleep and reduced fatigue during the day
Types of exercise
The best exercise is the one that you enjoy and can consistently do. Swimming, walking, hiking, dancing and cycling are all excellent forms of aerobic exercise and can be done socially in groups or with family and friends. Research shows that a combination of resistance exercises and aerobic exercises can gain the most benefits, where resistance exercises can be done using your own body weight or using added weights and resistance bands.
Exercise should challenge you and your body systems, but also be enjoyable and fun. Approximately 30% of the population diagnosed with PD is under the age of 50, and age doesn’t always mean you should be less active or involved in sports and outdoor activities. Incorporating friends and family, music, or a social aspect to your exercise program can be an easy way to increase motivation and participation.
Another form of exercise that is specific to persons with PD is Big therapy, a form of physical exercise inspired by the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment, “LSVT-LOUD”. Designed by a speech therapist, “LSVT-LOUD” focuses on increasing the volume of the voice to improve speech in persons with PD.
Big therapy was then introduced based on a similar idea; to promote bigger movements during exercises to compensate for the smaller movement patterns associated with PD.
Big therapy is usually higher in intensity than traditional physiotherapy prescribed rehabilitation exercises. The exercises focus on larger movements with exaggerated stepping and arm movements, creating a whole body exercise that challenges coordination, joint range of motion, strength and cardiovascular fitness. Although it has a whole-body focus, it can increase facial expression, and improve fine motor tasks such as buttoning clothing and handwriting.
Where Gen Physio can help
It is recommended that you consult a professional before beginning a new exercise program to assess your physical capacity and safety to perform activities. Here at Generation Physio we have a variety of Allied Health team members who can assess you to create a personalised treatment plan to help you to reach your goals and overcome any hurdles you may be experiencing. Persons with Parkinson’s Disease can greatly benefit from the advice, education and treatment tools that Physiotherapy, Exercise, Speech and Occupational Therapy can offer.
Having a solid support network of family and friends can have a huge impact on a person’s experience with Parkinson’s Disease. To get in contact with support groups or to talk with others affected by the neurological condition, feel free to visit the following website for more information.
What should I do now?
If you or someone you love has been affected by Parkinson’s Disease give us a call at Generation Physio and let our friendly team help you to achieve your goals. All our clinicians are mobile and can perform an assessment in the comfort and ease of your own home. Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation.
Article Written By Zoey Waldron