Nationwide, Parkinson’s Disease (PD) affects more than 1 million individuals, making it the second most common degenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder characterized by a loss of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain. Dopamine helps to regulate movement quality and amplitude and therefore, PD can affect the ability of a person to perform common daily activities.
Symptoms usually appear gradually and manifest in motor and non-motor symptoms. Motor symptoms most commonly include stiffness or rigidity of muscles, slowness of movement that can look like a short, shuffling gait pattern, and tremors. Non-motor symptoms include sleep problems, increased fatigue, depression, and anxiety, among others. There is no biological marker to confirm the diagnosis and therefore PD is usually diagnosed by a movement disorder specialist based on a pattern of symptoms.
There is no cure for PD and it is often treated with synthetic dopamine medications (depending on the stage of the disease) along with exercise. There is a growing body of research supporting the effectiveness of exercise in reducing an individual’s symptoms and improving their quality of life. Physical therapy can help address certain symptoms of PD and can help those develop an exercise routine that is appropriate for them.