Parkinson’s Disease- What is it?
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system which affects movement. The disease often progresses gradually and can vary from person to person. Common movement-related issues seen and reported in those diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease include bradykinesia (slower movements), hypokinesia (smaller movements), gait disturbances (including “shuffling”, “freezing”, slower walking speed), difficulty with balance, and postural changes. Over time, these slow changes can have a large impact on the ability of one with Parkinson’s Disease to perform normal daily activities including turning over in bed and walking in the community or at home; these changes can also place the individual’s safety at risk for falling due to decreased ability to balance.
These movement-related issues occur as a result of changes that take place in certain areas of the brain- specifically in regions which help to generate movement and perceive movement. Often, those who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease do not recognize that their movements are smaller and slower; they perceive their movement as normal!
There is good news, though: Even with a progressive disease such as Parkinson’s, improvement (not just maintenance) can be made! Movement is key. Specifically, exercise can help drive changes in the brain that help to improve brain functioning and slow disease progression. You can change your brain through exercise! The process of changing your brain through exercise is known as activity-dependent neuroplasticity, and this requires a few things: the exercise needs to be an appropriate intensity (needs to be challenging), repetitive (consistency and continued practice), rewarding (things that are important to the individual), specific to the deficit, and complex. When all of these things are present, magic happens! Specifically, changes in the brain happen; this is called neuroplasticity. Movement drives changes in the brain, and the changes in the brain drive better movement.
This sounds great in theory, but you may be wondering what this means for you or a loved one. How do you incorporate all these different aspects into an exercise program that is beneficial? While joining a gym (and showing up) is a great option, there are also programs available to help provide guidance and education from trained professionals to assist those specifically effected by symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease; LSVT BIG® is one such program. Through LSVT BIG®, a certified therapist meets with the patient for one-on-one sessions utilizing a specific protocol which focuses on the patient’s individual deficits and goals to decrease disease progression, improve quality of movement and safety, and give control back to the patient.
For more information on LSVT BIG® and to find a certified therapist near you, please visit the LSVT global website here: https://www.lsvtglobal.com/LSVTBig