Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition affecting the coordination of movement. Parkinson’s disease also affects cognition, mood, speech, bladder and bowel dysfunction. Parkinson’s disease involves a lack of a neurotransmitter called dopamine in the brain which causes stiffness, tremors and slow movement and cognitive impairments.
People commonly associate Parkinson’s disease with older people but it can appear earlier on in life. Juvenile Parkinson’s disease is very rare but means that a person is diagnosed before the age of 18. Young onset Parkinson’s disease occurs when a person is diagnosed between the ages of 21 – 40.
It commonly occurs around 65 years and is about 1.5 times more common in men than in women. The role genetics may play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease and may run in particular families.
What are the effects / symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?
The physical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease involve motor function and include:
- Tremor – involuntary muscle movement of the body parts commonly starting in the hand.
- Slowness of movement (bradykinesia) – difficulty in initiating movement or slowness in initiation.
- Stiffness or rigidity of muscles, increased muscle tone – problems with activities such as standing up from a chair or rolling over in bed may be experienced.
- Postural Instability – difficulties with posture and balance
- Shuffling Gait – walking with short steps and feet not clearing the ground
- Gait freezing – inability to move feet when initiating
- Dystonia – uncontrollable muscle contractions
People with Parkinson’s disease may also develop dementia. The frequency of dementia in Parkinson disease is variable, ranging from 20-40%, and has wide ranging effects on quality of life and survival.
A person with Parkinson’s disease may also suffer from selective cognitive impairments, including difficulties with attention, concentration, problem solving, and memory. These will interfere with everyday tasks such as:
- difficulties in paying attention at work;
- problems handling more than one project at a time;
- inability to sequence and plan tasks
- problems organizing and completing task at home and work
Other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include constipation, depression, tiredness and difficulty swallowing.
Treatment for Parkinson’s disease
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. However, a person with Parkinson’s disease will benefit from specialist neurological physical therapy. Physical therapy treatment will help increase your independence in everyday life. Our motivated physiotherapist acknowledge that Parkinson’s disease affects everyone differently so treatment is tailored to your needs. An initial assessment will look at how Parkinson’s affects you and goals will be developed centered around you and those close to you. People with Parkinson’s disease have a substantial risk of falling so physical therapy will focus on managing this difficulty. Physical therapy treatment can increase your energy levels and help you stay positive by increasing your sense of well-being. Physical therapy treatment will address:
✔Helping stiff muscles and joints
✔Maintaining muscle strength for as long as possible
✔Increasing range of motion
✔Improving balance and posture
✔Helping prevent or manage falls
✔Increasing comfort when sitting, standing or sleeping
✔Increasing energy levels
✔Improving sense of well being
✔Helping maintain independence