Tips to Manage Your Parkinson's Motor Fluctuations

Lifestyle changes can help you manage Parkinson's motor fluctuations -- symptoms that return after you've been getting treatment for years. Exercise, stress relief, and healthy eating can all play a role in making you feel better.

Focus on Diet

An overall healthy eating plan will give you the nutrients you need to feel your best. Try to get a balance of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and other nutritious foods with each meal.

You need protein from foods like meat, eggs, beans, and cheese to keep your muscles strong. But protein can also make it harder for your body to absorb levodopa -- a common medicine for Parkinson's.  

One solution is to eat all of your protein-rich foods at dinnertime. Stick to fruits, vegetables, and whole grains early in the day.

Take levodopa 30 to 60 minutes before meals, so your body has time to absorb the medicine. If the drug upsets your stomach, take it with some crackers or toast.

Rest

Your body needs time to rest and recover when you have Parkinson's. Try to do most of your daily activities during "on" times -- when your levodopa is working right and you feel your best.

A good night's sleep will help you feel refreshed. If you wake up during the night and have trouble falling back to sleep, there are steps you can take to help you get the best rest.

To help you sleep through the night, keep your room cool, dark, and quiet. Don't eat a heavy meal or drink alcohol or other fluids within 3 hours of bedtime. It's hard to sleep when your belly is full or you need to use the bathroom.

Switch out your regular sheets for satin ones. The silky fabric will let you move more easily and prevent some of the stiffness and pain that can disrupt your sleep.

Do something relaxing before bed. Meditate, practice deep breathing, or take a warm bath to calm your mind. If you try these tips and you still can't sleep through the night, see your doctor for advice.

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Exercise

Staying active is an important part of managing your Parkinson's disease. Exercise strengthens muscles, improves flexibility, and helps prevent falls. It also helps with symptoms like stiffness and slowed movements.

Try to walk, swim, lift light weights, or do other exercises for at least 2 1/2 hours each week.

Before you start a new exercise program, check with your doctor to make sure it's safe for you. Work with a physical therapist to design a routine that fits your needs and honors your limits.

It may be hard for you to exercise during "off" periods -- times when your levodopa isn't working so well and you have symptoms. Try to time activities to your "on" periods when your medicine is working best.

Manage Stress

It's important to find ways to relax, since too much stress can make your tremors, stiffness, and other symptoms worse.

Try some relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, for a few minutes each day. To do this, sit somewhere quiet, breathe in slowly through your nose, and let your belly expand. Then breathe out, gently pulling your belly in.

You can also do yoga or tai chi, exercise programs that combine gentle movements with deep breathing. They can help you relax while improving your balance and flexibility.

Music is another stress-buster. Listen to your favorite songs or find a soothing melody to calm your mind.

Get Support

If motor fluctuations start to make you feel a little overwhelmed, reach out to others to get the emotional backing you need. Ask for support from your partner, family, friends, and medical team.

You can also join a support group for people with Parkinson's disease. Ask the doctor who treats you to recommend one in your area. Or find a group through an organization like the Parkinson's Foundation. When you join one, you'll meet people who understand just what you're going through and can offer advice.

If you need more help than loved ones or support groups can give, see a therapist or counselor.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on December 18, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

European Parkinson's Disease Association: "Complementary Therapies," "Motor Symptoms."

Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience: "Protein-restricted diets for ameliorating motor fluctuations in Parkinson's disease."

Parkinson's Foundation: "Getting the Support You Need," "Managing PD Mid-Stride," "How Can I Cope With Anxiety and Stress?"

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research: "Diet and Parkinson's Disease."

UCSF: "Sleep and Parkinson's Disease."

UF Health: "Stress Management Related to Parkinson's Disease."

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