Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition. One person in every 500 has Parkinson’s, that’s about 127,000 people in the UK. It occurs as a result of a loss of those nerve cells responsible for producing Dopamine within the Basal Ganglia of the brain, which allows messages to be sent to the parts of the brain that co-ordinate movement. With the depletion of dopamine-producing cells, these parts of the brain are unable to function normally, the three main symptoms of Parkinson’s are:
- Tremor (involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body)
- Bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
- Stiff and inflexible muscles and joints
Individuals may also experience other symptoms such as; fatigue, pain, depression, bladder and bowel problems, speech and communication difficulties and freezing. Diagnosis of Parkinson’s is made by a specialist following a clinical examination as there is no laboratory test or scan which can definitively test for Parkinson’s.
Drug therapy is the main management option to manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s, while research into finding a cure continues. In conjunction with drug therapy, specialist input from a; Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist and Speech and Language Therapist, is integral to assist in the management of clinical symptoms and the impact they have upon every day activities.
Subsequent to the three main symptoms of Parkinson’s individuals may develop difficulties with the following:
- Coordination and grading of movement of all 4 limbs
- Reduced balance which may lead to falls
- Fine motor skills and dexterity of the hands
- Reduced stride length and speed of gait which may lead to a shuffling gait pattern
- Global weakness of the skeletal muscles
- Reduced cardio vascular fitness
An assessment with a Neuro Physiotherapist will identify exactly how an individual with Parkinson’s is presenting and what their specific difficulties are and then tailor their treatment to address the specific issues identified. It is essential to continually work on the varying issues which an individual may be experiencing to reduce/manage the subsequent secondary compensations/ physical changes which may occur. Furthermore it is very important from the onset to focus on maintaining your fitness levels and physical ability as this in turn will reduce secondary health complications which can incur with reduced levels of physical activity.