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April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Contributions by Megan Mar, PT, DPT - Complete Balance Solutions, Seal Beach

PRN and Complete Balance Solutions are joining the community in raising awareness of Parkinson’s Disease (PD), supporting all those affected, and encouraging everyone to take actions to impact the future of this disease. Whether that means learning how to navigate your own future with Parkinson’s, supporting someone in your life affected by PD, or contributions towards care and research, together we can make a difference.

As PRN promotes quality rehabilitative care, and Complete Balance Solutions specializes in neurological physical therapy and speech therapy, supporting those affected by the PD is near to our hearts. 

As of 2017, over 1 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with PD, and that number is expected to increase to nearly 1.64 million in 20 years.[1] Globally, PD is the fastest growing of all neurological disorders, with a prevalence of 6.1 million, which is projected to increase to over 12 million worldwide by 2050.[2] 

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive disorder that affects the nerve cells in the part of the brain called the basal ganglia, an area of the brain that controls movement.[3] When these nerve cells lose their function, they are unable to produce an important neurotransmitter called dopamine, which causes movement problems such as:

  • Slowed movement (bradykinesia)
  • Tremors, or the involuntary and rhythmic movements of the hands, arms, legs and jaw
  • Rigidity and stiffness
  • A stooped, flexed posture
  • Unsteady walking, or often feeling a foot catch on the ground during walking
  • Lowered speaking volume (hypophonia)

 Other symptoms may include depression and other emotional changes; urinary problems or constipation; and sleep disruptions.

Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there is effective treatment for lessening the signs and symptoms. In addition to family and friends, a well-rounded healthcare team supports the best course for an optimal quality of life, and may include medical doctors, physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists.

Physical therapy is an effective, research-based intervention to improve movement affected by Parkinson’s disease. As physical therapists, we have helped many people with PD to balance better, walk more efficiently, have improved posture, and increase mobility. Neurologic physical therapists have the most experience in helping those with PD, specializing in addressing neurological disorders.

How can physical therapy help with Parkinson’s disease?

  • Gait training to improve walking
  • Balance training to improve safe mobility
  • Aerobic exercise to improve walking and cardiac function
  • Resistance training to improve strength
  • Task-specific training to address an individual's needs, ex. Turning around, getting up from chair, reaching for something overhead

Look out for more information from us this month to further learn how physical therapy can help with Parkinson’s related impairments!

[1] Yang W, Hamilton JL, Kopil C, et al. Current and projected future economic burden of Parkinson’s disease in the US. npj Parkinson's

Disease. 2020;6(1):1-9.

[2] Collaborators GPsD. Global, regional, and national burden of Parkinson's disease, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global

Burden of Disease Study 2016. The Lancet Neurology. 2018;17(11):939.

[3] https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/parkinsons-disease

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