By Linda Lee Bonham, PT, NCS, LSVT BIG® Certified Physical Therapist
April is Parkinson’s awareness month. Parkinson's disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time. Nearly one million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson's disease. The specific group of symptoms that an individual experiences varies from person to person. Primary motor signs of PD include the following:
of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
• postural instability
or impaired balance and coordination
The cause of PD is unknown. Although there is presently no cure, exercise is the only thing that helps alleviate multiple symptoms. Researchers have discovered that the more strenuous and longer one exercises, the better the effect.
At Sheltering Arms, the BIG therapy program is an exercise approach developed from 20 years of research. BIG training increases the size of limb and body movement (“bigness”) in people with Parkinson’s disease, which leads to improvements in the quality and speed of movement, balance, and quality of life.
The following are four important exercise elements, with research-based modifications for people with PD:
1. Endurance training: 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise such as swimming, biking, or BIG walking each week (30 min, 5x/week). Starting slow and gradually increase time.
2. Strength training: work on major extensor muscle groups using fitness machines or resistance weights, 2-3 non-consecutive days/week, 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps. Note that weak extensors tend to be overpowered by tight flexors for people with PD.
3. Flexibility training: recommendations suggest at least 3 days/week of Tai Chi or yoga; however, daily stretching may be more beneficial. Stiffness is a significant limiting factor to mobility for people with PD and stretching tends to have a temporary effect. Hold each stretch 60-90 seconds, as it tends to take at least 30 seconds to relax into the stretch.
4. Balance training: Perform dance, Tai Chi, or yoga movements 2-3 days/week for 20-30 minutes. Exercises should challenge balance, agility, and coordination.
Sheltering Arms offers rehabilitation services to help patients meet the challenges associated with PD and other movement disorders. Our team of neurologic experts provides coordinated, interdisciplinary treatment based on clinical research and evidence, and creates a safe exercise regimen that is challenging but produces results. Our goal is to help patients optimize function, manage symptoms, and prevent further disease progression. To learn more about the program, click here
or call (877) 56-REHAB to schedule an assessment.
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