Exercise – A Treatment for Parkinson’s

Fifteen years ago exercise was thought to be an ineffective form of treatment for Parkinson’s disease. But in recent years, it has proven to be one of the best ways to slow this disease. That’s good news for the 60,000 Americans who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year.

The Parkinson’s Foundation describes Parkinson’s disease as a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain. This means that movements become slow and small, speech becomes quiet and slurred and balance becomes worse. Exercise helps to slow the loss of these functions. Sarah Blomenkamp, DPT, GCS, CEEAA, a physical therapist at Hillcrest Physical Therapy who specializes in caring for individuals with Parkinson’s, says what was once thought to be progression of the disease may be more attributed to a cycle of deconditioning based on fear from the diagnosis.

“At Hillcrest we really want to try to reverse that cycle and get clients as active as they can be, as safely as they can be,” Blomenkamp said.

Exercise keeps the person moving, keeping their muscles active. Exercise is also much less invasive and has lower side effects than medications, making it one of the best options for slowing the progression of Parkinson’s.

“Exercise has been shown to possibly delay when people with Parkinson’s need to start medications, and they hopefully won’t need as much medication as they progress,” said Blomenkamp. “That’s important because typically people will build up a tolerance to the medications and they continue to need more and more as their symptoms get worse.”

Hillcrest Physical Therapy has several different therapy programs for clients diagnosed with Parkinson’s. One of these is the LSVT Big® program. The LSVT Big® program is an evidence-based intervention that addresses the slowed, smaller movements of Parkinson’s. This program teaches clients how to make bigger movements, which may feel overexaggerated to the client, but in reality are normal sized movements. At Hillcrest Physical Therapy the goal is helping each client maintain their quality of life.

“We want to find the things that each client enjoys doing and develop a program along those lines and identify what’s important to them,” Blomenkamp said. “We want to make it very relevant to the client. It’s all about the individualized touch.”

There is not a cure for Parkinson’s yet, but there is still hope. To find out more about Hillcrest Physical Therapy’s LSVT Big® program or any of the other therapy programs call (402) 682-4210 or visit hillcresthealth.com. For more information about Parkinson’s Disease visit the Parkinson’s Nebraska website.

*Information provided in Hillcrest’s Therapy Thoughts newsletter and online blog posts is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace advice, treatment or a diagnosis from a certified medical professional. Please consult your health care provider with any health related issues.