The Role of a Physical Therapist in PD

Written by Amy Morse, PT, DPT

With all of the information out regarding exercise and PD, it can be confusing to understand where a Physical Therapist (PT) fits in. A PT specializes in movement and should become a part of the allied health team immediately following diagnosis. A PD-specialized PT will use research-based principles to drive neuroplasticity for optimal function, safety, and quality of life in an individual with PD.

A typical evaluation with a PT will include:

  • Subjective history: What has changed with mobility and balance? What daily activities are more challenging and why? How many falls have you had recently? Are you exercising regularly?
  • Objective testing of gait, balance, endurance, strength, flexibility, coordination, and quality of movement.


The PT will create a plan of care based on the objective findings and patient-centered goals. Treatment sessions should adhere to the principles of neuroplasticity and should target the individual’s PD impairment in order to make everyday mobility more efficient and safe. The PT should give tools and strategies for better movement in your everyday life!  If the person has just been diagnosed and/or symptoms are mild, the PT should formulate an exercise program which incorporates aerobic, strengthening, flexibility, and agility/balance activities.  The exercise program must be challenging both mentally and physically. The PT should refer each patient to appropriate community wellness programs for continued exercise.

It is never too late to see a PD PT!  A PT order from the neurologist or PCP, with clearance for exercise, is required. Insurance and Medicare does cover PT, with limits and/or co-pays. This can be discussed prior to the first visit. It is also important to see a PD PT every 6-12 months for a “check in” and a “tune up,” if needed. For more information on the role of physical therapy, click here.


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