In a surprise to the conservative treatments by neurologists, tailored exercise treatment programs are being developed by physical therapists to specifically counter the unique movement impairments associated with Parkinson’s by training patients to make big strong movements that incorporate the principles of tai chi and boxing. Treatments can, as well, improve the speech of Parkinson’s patients, who tend to talk more and more softly, according to a report in today’s New York Times.
Parkinson’s is not a muscle wasting disease, like some other movement disorders. Rather, the brain forgets how to tell the muscles what to do. Through tailored exercise, it should be possible to teach the brain to get muscles to work more effectively. For Parkinson’s patients in particular, regular exercise tailored to their needs can result in better posture; less stiffness; improved flexibility of muscles and joints; faster and safer walking ability; less difficulty performing the tasks of daily living; and an overall higher quality of life.
Among the many exercise options is an agility program that incorporates the principles of tai chi, kayaking, boxing, lunges and Pilates. Other programs tailored to benefit Parkinson’s patients include ParkFit, which fosters a more active lifestyle; Dance for PD, which has classes in every New York City borough and many other countries; and Microsoft Kinect Adventures, which uses Xbox games geared to different stages of the disease.