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Parkinson's Disease Health Center

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Physical and Occupational Therapy for Parkinson's Disease

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The symptoms of Parkinson's disease may cause you to move more slowly. You may also feel tightness, pain, and weakness, especially in the muscles and joints. Physical and occupational therapy may help with these symptoms.

How Does Physical Therapy Help Parkinson's Disease?

Physical therapy cannot cure Parkinson's disease, because at this time, neurological damage cannot be reversed. But therapy can help you compensate for the changes brought about by the condition. These "compensatory treatments," as they're called, include learning about new movement techniques, strategies, and equipment. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to strengthen and loosen muscles. Many of these exercises can be performed at home. The goal of physical therapy is to improve your independence and quality of life by improving movement and function and relieving pain.

Physical therapy can help with:

  • Balance problems
  • Lack of coordination
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Gait
  • Immobility
  • Weakness

Important note: Some physical therapists may apply diathermy (local heat application produced by high-frequency electrical current) to relieve muscle aches and pains. This could be dangerous to patients who have deep brain stimulators.

Where Can I Receive Physical Therapy?

Many hospitals offer outpatient physical therapy services. However, you may need to get a doctor's order to be seen in physical therapy. If you feel you can benefit from physical therapy, do not hesitate to ask your doctor for a referral.

How Many Physical Therapy Visits Will I Need?

Treatments in physical therapy often can be completed in one to three office visits. The first appointment includes an evaluation and recommendations for exercises. The following appointments check your progress and review and expand your home program. Most hospitals can provide additional sessions of outpatient therapy if needed.

What Other Services Does Physical Therapy Provide?

Recommendations. A physical therapist can make recommendations for physical therapy at home, at an outpatient facility, or at a nursing or rehabilitation facility.

Work capacity evaluations. Many physical therapists can perform functional capacity evaluations to provide more information for disability claims based on physical performance. This functional capacity evaluation can be useful when the Social Security office denies disability to a person who is unable to work for an eight-hour day.

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