Parkinson's Disease is a neurodegenerative condition that primarily affects the neurotransmitters in the basal ganglia, a part of the brain that is involved in many functions of the body both directly and indirectly. This includes, but is not limited to, cognition, motivation, voluntary movement, eye movement, emotion and it plays a role in the integration and relaying of sensory input.
The exact cause of Parkinson’s Disease is still unknown but excitingly with current research there is greater understanding that there may be some genetic factors at play. Parkinson’s Disease actually falls under an umbrella term of movement disorders called Parkinsonism, which includes other conditions such as vascular parkinsonism, drug-induced parkinsonism, and other forms of neurodegenerative disorders such as Multi Systems Atrophy (MSA) and Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP).
Parkinson's Disease can be tracked along the disease progression through many different outcome measures, however it is commonly classified according to the Hoehn and Yahr 5-Stage Scale.
Neurological physiotherapists are physiotherapists with additional training and expertise in treating problems related to the brain, spinal cord, inner ear and nerves. Neurological physiotherapists apply their neuroscience knowledge to assess the physical aspects that are affected by Parkinson’s, so as to individualise a treatment strategy and approach that would enable the person to change their movement behaviour.
There is strong evidence that physiotherapy is effective for Parkinson’s Disease, with most of the evidence and therapy targeted towards younger and earlier disease stages where it has been shown to improve quality of life, movement speed and amplitude and ease of movement. This has spurred onto the creation of Parkinson’s specific exercise programs such as LSVT and PD Warrior.
Another body of evidence is building for the use of music and dance as therapeutic activities for people with Parkinson’s, as a method of bypassing the basal ganglia so the brain can access movement through different pathways.
There is also some evidence to suggest that hydrotherapy or pool based programs provide immense benefit for the person with Parkinson’s, as well as tailored home and gym exercise programs that are goal-focussed and provide at least moderate intensity to create long lasting change and a reduction in symptom severity or delay in onset.