Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive, neurological, degenerative disorder affecting certain cells in our brain.
The cells affected are those that produce certain important chemicals which provide ‘instant bridges’ between nerve endings. The chemicals are called neurotransmitters.
There are various different neurotransmitters within the human body involved with various bodily / nerve-controlled functions.
In relation to PD there are two main neurotransmitters involved within the brain that are needed for smooth movement and physical control.
The first chemical (neurotransmitter) is Dopamine, which works similarly to turning on a light switch or pressing the accelerator in your; so, it bridges a ‘Go’ signal between nerves.
There second chemical (neurotransmitter) involved, is Acetylcholine which ‘bridges’ the opposite, i.e., the ‘Stop’ signal. So similar to the brake pedal in a car.
With PD the first chemical, Dopamine, is lacking significantly, and therefore, without the “go” neurotransmitter available, the “stop” neurotransmitter functions unopposed.
This results in affecting our ability to plan and/or control movement.
May well vary from person to person, but the most common signs are:
- Presence of a tremor
- Slowness of movement (bradykinesia)
- Rigidity (often seen as a lack of arm swinging while walking).
- Postural instability, (challenging balance).
Early signs may show as a quiet or soft voice and handwriting that continues to become smaller; subtle signs that may go unnoticed.
The primary Parkinson’s disease symptoms may be mild at first, going unnoticed or easily ignored, but will gradually become more intense and debilitating. Parkinson’s symptoms can become more severe over a period of 20 years or even longer.
Physiotherapists and GPs are often the first line of assistance and examination. Thorough testing by a neurologist may then confirm a suspicion of PD.
Prognosis / Treatment?
There is currently no identified cure for Parkinson’s disease and generally, the disease is progressive.
However, treatments are available to help relieve the symptoms and maintain some levels of quality of life. These treatments include supportive therapies, such as physiotherapy & medication.
Medications can assist in counteracting the effects of PD, and Physiotherapy can help slow the progression of symptoms and help you regain some control over slowed movement.
Here at Hempstead Therapy Centre, we have a Physiotherapist specially trained in PD-specific exercise that aims to retrain the nervous system, regain some control, and improve quality of life.
It is always advised to have a routine fitness program when diagnosed with PD, but it is mainly the stimulation of the nervous system that gets left behind in a traditional approach to exercise.
To retrain the way your muscle listens to your brain takes high intensity and large amplitude, full-body exercises practiced intensely for a period of a month, at which time the results have been achieved and the frequency of exercise can relax. This takes a true commitment and is a lot of work, but the results are amazing.
Following this program with the direction of a trained Physiotherapist has other benefits as well. Along with Parkinson’s specific symptoms, you may experience normal musculoskeletal pain that can be treated during this same period. The program is also catered to your abilities and your personal goals; no one person is the same as the other, so it becomes specific to you.
If you or anyone you know are having difficulty with their diagnosis, come into the clinic for a full assessment and find out how to reclaim power over handling your condition and seek improvements to your quality of life.