Parkinson’s disease affects about one million Americans and about 4-6 million people worldwide. It is a neurodegenerative disease of unknown cause, affecting mainly elderly people over 65, but early-onset Parkinson’s disease is not uncommon and may occur among a much younger population, even before the age of 40. Parkinson’s disease is noticeably more common in men than in women.
Its essence is the depletion of the dopaminergic cells located in the brain causing decreased levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This leads to early symptoms of PD periodic hand tremors, shoulder pain (frozen shoulder), micrographia, i.e. small handwriting, lack of – otherwise normal – balancing with one arm while walking, and tripping often due to one foot getting caught on uneven ground.
The next stage symptoms include slowness of movement, muscle stiffness, resting tremor, disturbances in gait and posture, and problems with balance. Since early detection of Parkinson’s disease plays a great role in successful treatment, it is important to be aware of early non-specific symptoms that hardly anyone associates with this disease, such as loss of smell, constipation, depression, or sleep disorders. These symptoms may appear many years before the development of full-blown Parkinson’s disease.
As the root cause of Parkinson’s disease remains unknown, virtually all existing, available treatment methods concentrate on what’s already known to slow down the process of degeneration of the dopaminergic cells and improve the level of dopamine within the body. All this helps to ease the symptoms. It is important to commence the treatment as early as possible. The vital role falls on the detection and identification of the very first, often unclear, ambiguous symptoms. If the treatment is applied very early on it has the potential to slow the disease down by several years. The very first component of the established treatment for Parkinson’s is purely pharmacological, which together with a healthy lifestyle (combining proper diet and helpful physical activity) may generate truly spectacular results, particularly over the first several years. The third component of the treatment, currently recognized as the most successful, in combating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is professional, focused, physical therapy led by an experienced and specifically trained therapist. Physical therapy in Parkinson’s should be applied in conjunction with oral medications that are as early as possible, and carried on diligently, as its effectiveness cannot be overstated. Finding a therapist trained specifically to help patients with Parkinson’s, preferably with experience in both dealing with the disease and the latest techniques and achievements in the field, may literally add many quality years to the patient’s life.
Our Clinic offers a very special, perfected over a period of twenty years program for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, aimed specifically at slowing down the illness, called LSVT BIG.
Since the greatest challenge of the disease are motor skills, the primary aim of the treatment is gait training, strengthening the body, improving balance, teaching taking longer strides, and overall walking techniques, to promote the patient’s confidence in matters as basic as moving about.
The full LSVT BIG protocol consists of 16 one-hour sessions of individualized therapy delivered four times a week in 4 weeks. At the conclusion of the program, a patient should be able to perform exercises independently since continuing the therapy at home is equally important as participating in the sessions at the clinic.
Although there is no cure that would stop the progression of the disease the symptomatic treatment, aimed at improving the overall functional mobility of the patient, greatly helps avoid serious consequences such as falls or even permanent immobilization, which may be an end-result of trauma directly related to the disease.
According to the modern-medicine approach to Parkinson’s disease, it is important not only to treat its symptoms but also to provide psychological support, both for the patients and their families. We understand the importance of creating an engaged, supporting community that is why our Clinic is involved in various actions aimed to assist people living with Parkinson’s and their loved ones. One of them is our Facebook support group – a safe place where our patients and caregivers can talk about their experience and consult one of our therapists specializing in Parkinson’s treatment. In addition, this year, PDR takes part in the nationwide campaign “The Moving Day”, organized annually by the Parkinson Foundation. Since 2012, the event has gathered over 130,000 people all over the United States. Thanks to the involvement of sponsors and private individuals over $27 million have been collected to support research on new drugs and treatments.
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