Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that affects the way an individual regulates his/her movements, causing their movements to slow. The most well-known symptom are tremors, but Parkinson’s patients also commonly experience a loss of balance, freezing episodes and stiffness. Research has shown that activity and exercises significantly improve mobility for Parkinson’s disease patients. However, it is important for these patients to learn and engage in an exercise routine that is specifically geared toward helping with the disease. This is why outpatient rehabilitation plays a vital role in helping patients manage their disease, improve function.
Physical therapy can help treat and manage Parkinson’s disease for each individual’s specific needs. Exercise at any point is beneficial; however, the earlier in the diagnosis that patients begin an exercise program, the more changes they are likely to be able to make. Physical therapy focuses on exercises specifically geared to help Parkinson’s patients improve their function in certain skills and/or activities that have become difficult for them because of the disease. Often, these exercises will help patients with their balance, walking, posture, sitting-to-standing movement and bed mobility.
The recommended amount of exercise to help reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is 240 minutes. At Cone Health’s Outpatient Rehabilitation, patients come for treatment three times a week, for six to eight weeks, to learn safe exercises that they can continue to practice at home after treatment ends. Before starting an exercise program, it’s important to talk with a physical therapist who specializes in patients with Parkinson’s, so they can individualize the exercises to the specific needs of the patient.
Joining an exercise program and local support group can help Parkinson’s patients stay motivated, maintain the mobility that allows them to accomplish daily activities, and help avoid and reduce problems like depression. The Reidsville Parkinson’s disease group meets every third Wednesday at 12pm at Annie Penn hospital.
The exceptional team of physical therapists and related healthcare providers at Cone Health Outpatient Rehabilitation Centers is dedicated to educating individuals in the community about the importance of exercising to help treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Kristen Unger is a doctor of physical therapy at Cone Health Outpatient Rehab Center at Reidsville. She received her Bachelor of Science in human nutrition, foods, and exercise, and a Master of Science in clinical exercise physiology/biomedical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2010 and 2011, respectively. She received her Doctor of Physical Therapy from Elon University in 2015. Kristen recently founded the Rockingham County Parkinson’s Disease support group.