Parkinson's disease involves more than just stooped posture and tremors. Some people experience symptoms like reduced sense of smell, constipation, and sleep disturbances for years before they are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease!
Additional symptoms include dry, irritated eyes as a result of lower blinking rates; difficulty smiling, frowning, or showing emotions through facial expressions; a hoarse voice and an incessant demand from others to speak louder.
Because we have yet to develop a gold standard for diagnosing Parkinson's disease, a physician needs to make a clinical diagnosis based on the culmination of one's signs and symptoms. This is why it's very important to have a physician who specializes in treating and managing patients with Parkinson's disease.
An experienced physician will work with you to identify the best medication to start with, monitor your signs and symptoms after taking the medication, and refer you to the healthcare professionals you need to complete your care.
"How does a physical therapist fit in to all of this?"
Like with many other health conditions, exercise is medicine for those with Parkinson's disease. In fact, the absence of exercise has been shown to lead to worsening of symptoms!
But not all exercise is equal, nor is all exercise appropriate for everyone. Finding a physical therapist who has experience working with individuals with Parkinson's disease is key to developing a program that meets your needs and goals.
While general strengthening and stretching programs are helpful, in order to achieve
neuroplasticity and combat the effects of Parkinson's disease on the brain, it is imperative to integrate exercises that are challenging, mentally engaging, and functional.
Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to change, grow, and reorganize its connections. Because of neuroplasticity, you can teach an old dog new tricks!
"Where can I find a physical therapist?"
You can search for a specialist on the American Physical Therapy Association's website:
On this website you can input the city or area you wish to search and narrow the practice focus to "Neurology". This will populate any nearby specialists in neurologic physical therapy.
Another resource you can utilize is the Parkinson Wellness Recovery website:
This directory allows you to search for fitness and healthcare professionals in your area who specialize in working with people with Parkinson's disease.
Fitness and rehabilitation can happen in various settings: in the hospital, at an outpatient clinic, with home-health services, or through private pay. Most individuals have received services from at least one of these settings at least once in the course of their diagnosis. It is best if you identify your core team of healthcare providers within each setting in order to keep care consistent and optimal.
Despite the fact that Parkinson's disease is neurodegenerative, it is NOT fatal. With the right support team behind you (physicians, therapists, personal trainers, family members, and loved ones) you can take steps towards taking back your life from this diagnosis.
Parkinson's disease does not define you. Start your fight against Parkinson's disease today!
For additional questions regarding finding the best exercise program and healthcare professional for you, please call or email us at Empowered Physical Therapy.