Physical Therapy improves many of the challenges for Parkinson’s patients. Although no single type of PT has been show to be superior to others, individual physical therapists with experience treating Parkinson’s patients are more likely to be helpful.
Forced Exercise. While it has long been known that staying active and mobile adds benefit and life value for people with neurological problems, there has been particular interest in the application of Forced Exercise (FE) for Parkinson’s. FE is a very specific exercise design. It is not simply pushing yourself, but rather something like a motorized treadmill that keeps you running just a bit faster than you would voluntarily choose to run, or perhaps a tandem bicycle with a slightly stronger bike-mate. FE was first shown to have neuro-protective effects in an animal model of the disease, and now those benefits have been demonstrated in humans. Speak with a Personal Trainer or Physical Therapist about applications that might work for you. (For more information, see Jay L. Alberts, et al. “It Is Not About the Bike, It Is About the Peddling; Forced Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease” in Exerc Sport Sci Rev 2011; 39(4):177-186.)
Pharmaceutical treatment for Parkinson’s offers a temporary relief from some of the stiffness and slowness associated with disease progression. Medications all carry some potentially serious side effects and seem to “wear off” – requiring gradually increasing doses until the drug seems to have no effect at all. In this area as well, working with an experienced physician is a wise choice.
A prescription worth trying is low dose naltrexone. Used originally, in high doses, as an opioid antidote, it is used in smaller doses (3-5 mg at bedtime) for auto-immune disease, depression and problems with intestinal motility. It appears to have anti-inflammatory effects in the brain, improving function for some people, and with a very limited incidence of side effects. We will hear more about this application in the future, I’m quite sure.