April Is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month
Contributed by Ira “Sam” Manalo, PT, DPT
We would like to take the opportunity to raise awareness of this progressive neurological disorder that affects movement and movement coordination. Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common degenerative brain disorder affecting adults. Alzheimer disease is the most common.
What Is PD?
PD is a disorder of the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, and controls everything you do, including moving. It is a chronic degenerative disease, which means that it gradually gets worse over time. At this time, the exact cause of the disease is unclear. Science has discovered that PD can be hereditary and found specific genetic mutations that are linked to PD. Research has also identified a few risk factors for PD. Advanced age increases the risk of acquiring PD. Symptoms typically appear in individuals 60 years and older but “early onset” PD is when symptoms develop before age 50. Data also shows that males and individuals who have been exposed to environmental toxins (herbicides and pesticides) are more likely to develop the disease.
Signs & Symptoms
The severity of symptoms can vary from person to person. Someone may not even be aware of the symptoms. Nonmotor symptoms, such as a decreased sense of smell, sleep problems, and lightheadedness when first standing up, can begin many years before motor (movement) symptoms develop. Motor symptoms, typically include muscle and joint stiffness (rigidity), shaking (tremors) in the hands and limbs, slower and smaller movement patterns, and balance issues, most often begin as the disease progresses. Over time, voluntary movements such as writing may become difficult due to problems with coordination and people may start losing the ability to perform automatic or subconscious movements such as blinking or smiling as well as trouble with swallowing.
Lifestyle modifications are effective in managing symptoms and staying active through exercise is effective in maintaining muscle strength and flexibility. Here’s how Physical Therapists can help people with PD:
- Improve fitness level, strength, and flexibility
- Develop more effective strategies to get in and out of bed, chairs, and cars
- Improve the smoothness and coordination with walking
- Improve ability to perform hand movements
- Balance training to reduce the risk of falling
- Maintain independence and daily function
If you have any questions regarding PD or if you or someone who will benefit from Physical Therapy, please contact Sam in our York, PA location at 717.430.0770 to schedule an appointment. If you would like to contact a different Pivot location, please visit our locations page for additional details.