Archive for Thursday, September 27, 2007

Exercise important in Parkinson disease

September 27, 2007

Exercise is important in Parkinson disease

Parkinson disease is a serious neurological disorder that affects many older adults. As it is a progressive disorder, it can be difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms may not all appear at once and become more profound as time goes by. There is no known cure for Parkinson disease, but medication therapy coupled with a program of physical therapy has been shown to be effective in delaying or limiting some its debilitating effects.

Some of the symptoms of Parkinson disease are problems that are commonly associated with aging, but are more severe. They can include a slowing of movement, difficulty walking or rising from a lying or sitting position, loss of balance, and trouble going to the toilet or getting dressed. Muscles in the hips, shoulders, and neck can tighten up and cause a bending forward of the posture. It may be hard to get comfortable lying down. Resting tremors are another common symptom. Loss of rotational movement in the trunk can make it difficult to roll out of bed or turn your neck and torso to look behind you.

By all means see a doctor if you experience these symptoms. Don't wait until they cause you a serious problem, like a fall caused by loss of balance or pain from poor posture; be proactive. The doctor can prescribe medication, which can help reduce many of the movement problems. They can be very effective when taken as prescribed. Sometimes, however, the medications lose effectiveness over time or produce unwanted side effects. Sometimes the medications will need to be changed.

Be sure to ask your doctor about physical therapy. An aggressive exercise program has been shown in many studies to help improve the symptoms of Parkinson disease in most patients. Typically, a physical therapist will design a program that emphasizes trunk, arm and leg strength. Improving trunk strength has been shown to especially be effective in helping with posture, balance and cardiopulmonary issues. These improvements have been shown to be comparable to those improvements demonstrated by normal, healthy older adults. Most of these exercises can easily be performed in the home.

A physical therapist also will focus on balance training and range-of-motion exercises that are aimed at improving flexibility and to help the patient remain as able-bodied and independent for as long as possible. These exercises have been shown to be effective in also limiting postural problems, helping to straighten the hips, legs, and spine.

Because patients with Parkinson disease often have tightened chest muscles, they may find breathing difficult. This inability to breathe deeply can cause fatigue and can become a real problem during cold and flu season. A physical therapist can help with exercises for chest expansion, breathing exercises, and a safe aerobic exercise program that will not overly stress the cardiovascular system.

You also will be exposed to a stretching regimen. It is important to get professional help when learning to stretch properly, as tight muscles and joints must be carefully stretched over a long period of time to avoid damaging tissue. Stretching can aid in retaining flexibility and good posture.

Exercise and stretching have been clinically shown to have important benefits for those suffering from Parkinson disease. Physical therapists are well trained in designing programs to help people deal with the loss of motion, postural changes and other problems that are symptomatic in most patients.

Even though it is an incurable disease, the correct exercise and stretching regimen along with medication therapy can be of immense help in treating these debilitating symptoms. So, if you or someone you know has Parkinson disease, recommend they see a physical therapist.

October is National Physical Therapy Month with the slogan: "Physical Therapy, the Science of Healing, the Art of Caring."

For more information, contact Carolyn Bloom, PT or Jeremy Zimney, PT at Bloom & Associates Therapy at their Eudora or Lawrence clinics.

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