I always have believed the best way to help someone is to help them to help themselves. Doctors of Physical Therapy work to that end with other health professionals.
Many things can threaten our ability to function with aging. Parkinson’s disease is a common neurological brain disorder which degrades muscle control, balance, walking stability & posture.
Often those affected require health care assistance due to resulting fall risks, poor posture, rigidity, and difficulty talking & swallowing. In many cases, skilled physical therapy can help!
The disease involves part of the brain called the basal ganglia affecting nerves which finely coordinate acceleration (gas pedal) & deceleration (braking) movements (Fields D, The Other Brain 2009).
The neurotransmitter dopamine is the brake system & is lacking in this neurodegenerative condition leading to rigidity & over activity of the accelerating neurotransmitter (acetylcholine). It can be likened to what I experienced when first learning to drive my grandmother’s stick shift Pinto.
Manual transmission cars require one to coordinate the gas & brake pedals, as well as the clutch, in a finely coordinated manner. For me, my initial efforts to drive the car caused it to jerk, stall, go backwards & to generally move abnormally.
Several times I recall becoming tense, rigid & fearful of driving as did those driving with me & around me! Similar to my experience, it’s difficult for those with Parkinson’s to move with normal fluid coordination.
Individuals typically develop small steps with shuffling gait patterns, as well as a tendency to look down & flex their trunk & hips excessively.
In terms of medical interventions, L-dopa medication (prescribed by physician) can significantly help by improving & restoring dopamine levels in the brain.
Also, research has shown significant improvements with physical therapy involving “LSVT Big & Loud” therapeutic exercise programs, especially with walking speed & motor (strength) functioning (Eberbach G et al, Movement Disorders, 2010).
These physical therapy interventions can improve functional mobility and stability by emphasizing larger steps & arm swings with multi-plane high amplitude movements.
People with deconditioning & other neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis or strokes also can potentially benefit. As part of this approach, individuals are trained to talk loudly while performing exercises (“loud” portion of the program); this has been shown to improve voice quality.
Additionally, many often can benefit from other physical therapy interventions including manual therapy, adaptive home modifications, postural exercises, & corrective verbal movement cues.
Breaking the Cycle
For those experiencing poor posture, weakness & spine-related pain, Backsmith Selective Stabilization Support™ exercise interventions often can help break the cycle.
The concentrated therapeutic support combined with therapeutic exercises can improve postural re-education, reduce restrictive tightness & pain, as well as further improve stability & gait efficiency.
Similar to driving a stick shift & learning to become a good driver, improving function often requires ongoing practice, commitment & patience.
Doctors of Physical Therapy are highly trained to evaluate & treat movement disorders both in inpatient and outpatient settings. Often with early intervention & direct access options, individuals can achieve significant improvements in quality of life while avoiding more expensive downstream health care costs (Fritz J, Spine 2013, Ojha H, Physical Therapy, 2013).
In light of ever increasing health care costs, as well as higher deductibles & co-pays, more & more consumers are discovering the significant cost savings & value of utilizing cash-based clinics. Everyone loves a bargain!
In summary, skilled physical therapy can assist many young & aging individuals with a multitude of therapeutic tools to meet their individual functional goals, desires & needs. For those striving to be more independent, the right kind of assistance can make all the difference in quality of life & functioning.