The month of May is going to be an education month for Integrative Therapy and Wellness, LLC. I will be writing about a common illness I see in the elderly or anyone and then discuss how Physical Therapy can help people with these illnesses. Our first topic this month is an illness that affects so many people, Parkinson’s Disease: Please read on…….
What Is Parkinson’s Disease???
By: The National Parkinson’s Foundation
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people. Most people’s symptoms take years to develop, and they live for years with the disease.
In short, a person’s brain slowly stops producing a neurotransmitter called dopamine. With less and less dopamine, a person has less and less ability to regulate their movements, body and emotions.
Parkinson’s disease itself is not fatal. However, complications from the disease are serious; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rated complications from PD as the 14th top cause of death in the United States.
There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s. Your doctor’s goal will be to treat your symptoms to keep your quality of life as high as possible.
Normally, there are brain cells (neurons) in the human brain that produce dopamine. These neurons concentrate in a particular area of the brain, called the substantia nigra. Dopamine is a chemical that relays messages between the substantia nigra and other parts of the brain to control movements of the human body. Dopamine helps humans to have smooth, coordinated muscle movements. When approximately 60 to 80% of the dopamine-producing cells are damaged, and do not produce enough dopamine, the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease appear. This process of impairment of brain cells is called neurodegeneration.
The current theory (so-called Braak’s hypothesis) is that the earliest signs of Parkinson’s are found in the enteric nervous system, the medulla and in particular, the olfactory bulb, which controls your sense of smell. Under this theory, Parkinson’s only progresses to the substantia nigra and cortex over the years. This theory is increasingly borne out by evidence that non-motor symptoms, such as a loss of sense of smell, hyposmia, sleep disorders and constipation may precede the motor features of the disease by several years. For this reason, researchers are increasingly focused on these “non-motor” symptoms to both detect PD as early as possible and to look for ways to stop its progression.
While symptoms are unique to each person, and the progression of symptoms varies from person to person, knowing the typical stages of Parkinson’s can help you cope with changes as they occur. In some people, it could take 20 years to go through these stages. In others, the disease progresses more quickly.
Stages of Parkinson’s Disease
During this initial stage, the person has mild symptoms that generally do not interfere with daily activities. Tremor and other movement symptoms occur on one side of the body only. Friends and family may notice changes in posture, walking and facial expressions.
In stage two of Parkinson’s, the symptoms start getting worse. Tremor, rigidity and other movement symptoms affect both sides of the body. Walking problems and poor posture may become apparent. In this stage, the person is still able to live alone, but completing day-to-day tasks becomes more difficult and may take longer.
Stage three is considered mid-stage in the progression of the disease. Loss of balance and slowness of movements are hallmarks of this phase. Falls are more common. Though the person is still fully independent, symptoms significantly impair activities of daily living such as dressing and eating.
During this stage of Parkinson’s, symptoms are severe and very limiting. It’s possible to stand without assistance, but movement may require a walker. The person needs help with activities of daily living and is unable to live alone.
This is the most advanced and debilitating stage of Parkinson’s disease. Stiffness in the legs may make it impossible to stand or walk. The person requires a wheelchair or is bedridden. Around-the-clock nursing care is required for all activities. The person may experience hallucinations and delusions. While stage five focuses on motor symptoms, the Parkinson’s community acknowledges that there are many important non-motor symptoms as well.
In my Physical Therapy practice in Phoenix, Arizona our team has treated and helped many Parkinson’s patients. Simple exercises can help. My next blog will be about what types of exercises and therapy can assist these patients. When I worked at the Barrows Institute in Phoenix https://www.barrowneuro.org/?gclid=CjwKEAjw_6XIBRCisIGIrJeQ93oSJAA2cNtM5H2-mxs491nnlBCsFFxmGSbmxAEUwvG7sKvyXl3FhRoCHSbw_wcB
one of the top hospitals in the United States for Neurological disorders I worked with many Parkinson’s patients and learned so much about helping patients with this illness.
So please read again this week and learn about how Physical Therapy can help with Parkinson’s Disease. As always thank you for reading.
Kimberly Jacob, PT, CNDT, BCST