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What is Parkinson’s Disease? Learn About The Symptoms and Treatments

Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson’s disease can cause tremors.

Parkinson’s disease targets your ability to move independently, making it challenging to participate in everyday activities comfortably. However, some exercises and treatments can improve your mobility and strength while living with the disease. Here at Living Well Balanced, we work with Parkinson’s patients to address their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that impacts the ability to control your movements. The disease targets the substantia nigra, a part of the brain that produces dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that sends signals between sections of the brain that control muscle movement. When the disease prevents the brain from producing dopamine, it causes damage to the nerves, causing you to lose control of your movements.

Though some scientists can make an argument for genetic or environmental factors, we don’t know the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease. It is a chronic neurological disorder, meaning there is no cure. Patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s can focus on treating the symptoms of the disease to mitigate the effects and maintain their quality of life. Research surrounding this disease is ongoing and has led to new and effective treatments.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

The chronic nature of Parkinson’s disease means most treatments focus on mitigating symptoms. It is also a progressive disease, meaning that if left without treatment, symptoms can become more apparent and affect your daily life. With therapy, however, these symptoms can be controlled and, in some cases, reversed.

Here are some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease:

  • Tremors: A tremor is a rhythmic shaking in a limb or body part. Patients with Parkinson’s disease often experience tremors in their hands or fingers. These tremors can occur while at rest or performing tasks like writing or using technology.
  • Slowed movement: This disease can cause patients who can control their actions to move much slower. This symptom can make simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Bradykinesia is another name for this symptom.
  • Sleeping problems: Sleeping problems like restless leg syndrome can be a side effect of Parkinson’s disease. The decreased control over limbs and movement can make it difficult to get comfortable when lying down. 
  • Stiffness: Stiffness refers to the muscle stiffness or soreness that can occur in any part of the patient’s body due to limited or uncontrollable movement. This stiffness can make it more difficult to move comfortably and limit the patient’s range of motion.
  • Impaired balance: Parkinson’s can impact the posture and balance of the patient. This can be disorienting for the patient and can even lead to injury from falls or collisions.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: Involuntary or uncontrollable movement can also occur to non-motor functions, like digestion. These symptoms can lead to constipation or abdominal pain, causing distress and discomfort.

Treatments for Parkinson’s disease

Many patients live successful and independent lives in addition to treating their Parkinson’s disease. Finding the proper treatment can significantly improve your experience living with Parkinson’s, so it is essential to speak with your doctor and physical therapist about your diagnosis. We can work with you to find the right combination of treatments for your diagnosis and lifestyle. Here are some common treatments for Parkinson’s disease:

Physical therapy and fitness

Studies have shown that fitness can reduce tremor symptoms in Parkinson’s patients. Physical therapy and a focus on fitness can help you target the muscles affected by the disease. A physical trainer can help you develop a workout and therapy regimen specific to your needs. Introducing purposeful movement into your lifestyle can strengthen your muscles, maintain muscle control, and improve your balance. These exercises can be essential in maintaining independence and mobility.

ParkinsonFoundation.org states that boxing is one exercise that has improved mobility in Parkinson’s patients. At Living Well Balanced, we host Rock Steady Boxing classes, a Parkinson’s rehab treatment focusing on core strength, rhythm and gross motor movement. Rock Steady Boxing is a non-profit organization that has developed a boxing program specifically geared toward treating Parkinson’s symptoms. If you are interested in attending one of our Rock Steady Boxing classes, you can make an appointment.

At Living Well Balanced, we work with Parkinson’s patients to determine how their diagnosis impacts their mobility. Then, we can develop individual treatment plans that address the patient’s specific needs. Over a period of time, our therapists monitor their progress and update the treatment plan as needed. This type of hands-on therapy can result in enormous improvements for patients dealing with Parkinson’s symptoms.

Medicine

In addition to physical therapy, many patients with Parkinson’s undergo drug therapy to treat their symptoms. Patients can take medications that increase dopamine or mimic dopamine’s effects in the brain. A doctor may also prescribe medicine to impact the neurotransmitters in the body, counteracting the effects of the disease on the patient’s nerves. Many patients use a combination of drugs and physical therapy to combat their symptoms. You can speak with your doctor about what treatment plan may be best for you.

Surgery

For some, drug and physical therapy are not sufficient to combat the progression of Parkinson’s. Some patients may seek surgical intervention at the suggestion of their doctor. Deep brain stimulation is a surgical technique where a surgeon implants an electrode into part of the brain to generate a pulse that can block the signals that cause motor symptoms. Due to the progress made with other treatment types, many patients successfully manage Parkinson’s disease without surgery.

Many people living with Parkinson’s are mobile and independent due to the therapies and treatments available. If you want to speak to a professional about your Parkinson’s diagnosis and how we can help control your symptoms, you can always give us a call at 212-579-2858 or send us an email at info@livingwb.com. You can also check out our blog for more information about physical therapy and mobility exercises.

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