Parkinson’s Disease Treatment in Wisconsin

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disease of the nervous system. It is caused by a degeneration of the basal ganglia and a deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine plays a major role in executive functions (paying attention, organizing, planning, prioritizing), focus, motor control, motivation, and reward. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) typically starts with a tremor in one hand, slow movements, stiffness, and loss of balance. As the disease progresses, difficulty with everyday activities can get harder, along with walking and speech. Physical Therapy can support people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Learn more about Parkinson’s Disease Treatment in Wisconsin.

How Physical Therapy Can Help

Physical Therapy helps keep you moving and active throughout the different stages of PD. Research shows that PT helps to improve and maintain the symptoms of PD. Many times, the first symptom noticed with PD is a tremor. While movement impairments are not typically seen first, this is the time when it is crucial to begin working with a trained PD physical therapist. Physical Therapy at the early stages of the disease includes gait training, balance training, resistance training, and cardio/aerobic work. Recalibrating the brain at the early stages can help slow and minimize the progression of PD.

Movement Changes 

As PD progresses, movement slows, not just in speed, but also in amplitude. Decreased step length results in what we see as a shuffling, slow gait. Arm swing becomes reduced, eventually, no arm swing is seen with walking. Physical Therapy, using the LSVT-BIG approach helps to recalibrate the movements to a more normal and safe pattern, allowing the person to remain active and safe within their home and community.
Another common symptom of PD is an increase in whole-body stiffness, termed rigidity. Rigidity experienced by those diagnosed with PD is thought to come from reduced dopamine levels in the brain. The reduced dopamine levels disrupt the balance between the muscles, causing stiffness or rigidity. This is seen in the limbs and trunk, as well as, the face (facial masking). Sleep can be negatively affected by rigidity due to the loss of mobility and pain.

Changes in Posture

Stooped posture, while not a major sign of PD, is something to talk about. With less executive functioning due to reduced dopamine, the brain does not remind the body to straighten up its posture regularly. Rounded shoulders and forward lean of the head can occur due to muscle stiffness (rigidity), focus on other tasks, and times when medications are lower, causing “off” symptoms. It is important to work with a PT on posture to reduce the pain that occurs from forward head and rounded shoulders. The stooped posture can also make it more difficult to take full inhalations and exhalations, dress oneself (lifting arms overhead), and get in/out of a chair. Stooped posture puts you at increased fall risk, addressed above. PT can help cue you to maintain and improve your posture with PD.

Slowing the Progression of Parkinson’s Disease

Working with an LSVT-BIG Parkinson’s Disease trained therapist is important in helping to reduce symptoms and slow progression. Beyond the ways discussed above, PT can help with education and self-management suggestions, provide exercises that are effective in slowing decline, and help maintain safety in the home, community, and while exercising. Intensive, continuous exercise, along with optimal medications, has been shown to slow motor deterioration and extend quality of life. While there is no cure at this time for PD, the goal of a PT working with someone who has PD is to keep the person active, independent, strong, and safe.
If you or someone you know suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, make your appointment today to improve and maintain your quality of life and slow disease progression.

Physical Therapist at Freedom Physical Therapy Services
Molly Rittberg received her master’s degree in Physical Therapy in 2007 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and went on to receive her doctorate from Rosalind Franklin University (North Chicago) in 2009. She has since worked in an outpatient orthopedic practice where she worked with patients of all ages, injuries and disabilities. She has a wide variety of experiences including knee, ankle, foot and shoulder injuries, post-operative conditions, spinal rehabilitation and peripheral neuropathies.