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Parkinson's disease is a chronic neuro-degenerative condition with effects on motor, cognitive, social and emotional domains. Parkinson’s symptoms vary from person to person and change over time.
The following symptoms are common with Parkinson's:
How can a physiotherapist help?
A physiotherapist can help by assessing posture, endurance, gait, strength, flexibility, breathing and balance. A physiotherapist can then ensure that they provide strategies and exercises that target the patient's weak areas, while also maintaining their health. For example, Parkinson's disease often affects the muscular system, impairing strength. A physiotherapist would then work to improve the strength of the weaker muscle groups.
Impact of exercise on the brain
Exercise not only helps the physical aspects of Parkinson's but the mental ones as well. It has been shown to help relieve symptoms of fatigue, mood, sleep problems, and mental health. People with Parkinson's can have a dopamine deficiency. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the brain's reward and pleasure centres, as well as regulating movement and emotional responses. While exercise has not been shown to increase the amount of dopamine in the brain, research does show that it helps it to be used more efficiently. Additionally, exercise helps the brain compensate for changes that occur because of Parkinson’s. Studies have shown that exercise and physical therapy can improve many aspects of Parkinson’s by incorporating feedback, repetition, challenge, problem-solving, engagement and motivation.
Reported benefits of exercise include improvements in deep breathing, gait and balance, posture, flexibility and sleeping. Additionally, exercising with Parkinson's can improve memory and decision-making, attention and concentration, and lower chances of depression and anxiety.
In addition to physical exercise, mental exercise such as doing puzzles, playing cards or other games, reading a book, going to lectures or concerts, or learning a new activity, can all be used to maintain and improve mental health, particularly if these are done in a social setting.