Physiotherapists assess and treat mobility problems such as walking, posture, flexibility, strength and balance. Often working as part of a multi-disciplinary team, they devise customised exercises, use specialised techniques and provide training for family caregivers.

Using manual therapy as well as movement, exercise and various other techniques, physiotherapists are able to address several PD-related issues. These include improving gait and balance as well as relieving joint pain and muscle stiffness.

Instead of simply following your own exercise programme, bear in mind that a physiotherapist will give you hands-on guidance during exercise to minimise injuries and help keep you motivated.

The benefits of exercise

Several recent research studies have suggested that early exercise may prevent or delay some of the disabling aspects of PD. While researchers say they won’t know for sure until they’ve conducted more human trials, they do know that people should begin or continue exercise after they’ve been diagnosed with PD.

Another study, published in Archives of Neurology suggests that exercise, including resistance training, stretching, and treadmill use may boost muscle strength, gait speed, and overall fitness for patients with Parkinson’s.

If you have PD it’s important to ask your specialist to refer you to a physiotherapist with experience in Parkinson’s to ensure it will be covered by your medical insurance.

The message therefore, is clear, according to Dr David Lehman, a PD specialist in neuro-rehabilitation and associate Professor at Tennessee State University. If you have PD, look for opportunities to exercise.

This is echoed by Prof Daniel Corcos, Kinesiology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Having researched the effects of exercise on PD for over 20 years, Prof Corcos is currently involved in a four-year study funded by the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders. The study will assess the benefits of aerobic exercise in controlling symptoms in individuals recently diagnosed with PD.

Prof Corcos says not only does exercise benefit the heart, brain and muscles in the same way it does in healthy people, it also “modifies signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease”.

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