Parkinson’s disease is a progressive motor system disorder that occurs when certain cells within the brain begin begin to degenerate or break down. In individuals with Parkinson’s disease, the cells that produce a chemical called dopamine, gradually breakdown or die. Dopamine is a chemical that sends signals to the brain to control movement. As these cells diminish and the dopamine levels decrease, the disease progresses and patients gradually lose control of their movements. While there is no cure currently available for Parkinson’s disease, there are treatments available to control symptoms and improve quality of life.

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It is important for patients with Parkinson’s disease to participate in regular exercise to increase muscle strength and flexibility and maintain function throughout the body. A physical therapist will work with patients to develop an exercise program that suits their specific needs. Aerobic exercises, such as walking, riding a stationary bicycle, swimming, or water aerobics are easy to perform and mentally and physically energizing. Physical therapy exercises may help to improve:

  • Balance
  • Mobility
  • Range of motion
  • Muscle tone

Physical therapists may also work with patients using specific exercises to increase flexibility and strength. Simple strengthening and stretching exercises can be beneficial for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Exercise may also help to prevent some of the complications of Parkinson’s disease caused by rigidity and and bent posture, such as shoulder, hip, and back pain.

Daily activities may become difficult for patients with Parkinson’s disease and an occupational therapist may be helpful in guiding them through techniques to make daily tasks and life easier. Many patients who participate in an exercise program feel more confident and gain a sense of control over their disease.

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