Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder, and anti-Parkinson’s drugs merely mask the symptoms as the dopamine-producing neurons that control the automatic movements we take for granted slowly dissipate. Movement impairments in the initial stages of the disease are not always obvious. By not engaging a physical therapist with a neurological specialization as part of their medical team, people with Parkinson’s often miss the window of opportunity to address these impairments early. We believe neurologists should refer all of their PD patients to a physical therapist for a baseline evaluation immediately after diagnosis and for periodic reevaluations thereafter.
VIEW PHYSICAL THERAPIST JULIA HURTADO’S WEBINAR: “EARLY INTERVENTIONS IN PARKINSON’S DISEASE” (Note: only a 15-minute preview will play in your browser; download the entire file using the “Download” option in the top right corner of your browser and open the file to view the entire webinar)
A physical therapist is uniquely trained to design an exercise routine that targets your specific motor impairments. Physical therapists also have an opportunity to provide frequent, direct feedback to help make you aware of how to exercise most effectively and safely. After completing therapy, you will be better equipped to participate regularly and effectively in community-based exercise programs. Regular participation in an appropriate exercise program will make you better equipped to handle–and maybe even slow down–the inevitable progression of Parkinson’s disease. The PD Gladiators Metro Atlanta Fitness Network offers group exercise classes adapted for PD by instructors trained by physical therapists and other experienced clinicians. These low-cost programs are designed to combat PD using all four basic exercise groups: cardiovascular, strength training, flexibility and neuromotor.
DOWNLOAD a form to be completed by your physical therapist upon discharge with recommendations for exercise with a Certified Personal Trainer, YMCA Wellness Coach, or community-based group exercise program.
Find a Physical Therapist with Neurological Specialization
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) offers a consumer service called Find a PT that allows you to search a national database for neurologic therapists. This tool casts a wide net, though, and to find a physical therapist with advanced training in the evaluation and treatment of individuals with movement problems due to disease or injury of the nervous system, including Parkinson’s disease, consider also searching for a clinician who:
(a) is certified in the LSVT BIG Program (LSVT Training and Certification Workshops are two-day programs designed to train rehabilitation therapists in an evidence-based treatment approach for individuals with Parkinson disease and other neurological disorders); and/or
(b) is a PWR!Moves™ Trained Therapist who has completed a workshop offered by Parkinson Wellness Recovery and has been trained to implement treatment plans or community programming that adheres to research-based techniques shown to optimize learning, brain health, and function.
These tools will not uncover every physical therapist qualified to treat a person with PD, so consider asking your neurologist or members of your support or exercise groups for recommendations, too.
If you live in the Atlanta metropolitan area, we have compiled a list of facilities with PD LSVT BIG certified physical therapists.