Physical Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease: A Comprehensive Guide

physical therapy for Parkinson's disease

Parkinson’s is one of the most common degenerative brain disorders that usually affects older people and can lead to significant challenges for those suffering from it. While there is no cure for this condition, therapies, and treatments can improve the quality of life for those living with Parkinson’s. One such form of therapy is physical therapy. It plays a crucial role in managing the symptoms and enhancing the overall well-being of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. In this blog, we’ll delve into the role of physical therapy, some treatment methods, and exercises to manage this condition effectively.

What Is Parkinson’s Disease? What Is Parkinson's Disease? 

Before we jump straight into treatments or physical therapy, it is important that we understand Parkinson’s and its effects on the body.

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and degenerative neurological disorder that primarily affects movement control. It occurs when the brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical messenger responsible for transmitting signals that control movement, become damaged or die. That is why, individuals suffering from Parkinson’s experience various motor and non-motor symptoms.

Some of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s include:

  • Tremors: Resting tremors, also known as “pill-rolling” tremors, are a hallmark of Parkinson’s. These are involuntary shaking movements that typically begin in the hands and can later affect other parts of the body as well.
  • Bradykinesia: Bradykinesia refers to slowness of movement. Individuals with Parkinson’s may find it difficult to initiate and complete everyday tasks due to reduced movement speed.
  • Muscle Rigidity: Stiffness in the muscles is a pretty common symptom, making it difficult for individuals to flex and extend their limbs freely.
  • Postural Instability: Balance problems can lead to postural instability and increase the risk of falls. This symptom often emerges in the later stages of the disease.
  • Freezing of Gait: Some individuals experience episodes where they suddenly “freeze” while walking as if their feet are glued to the ground.

Non-Motor Symptoms:

In addition to motor symptoms, Parkinson’s also leads to various non-motor symptoms. These include:

  • Speech and swallowing difficulties
  • Loss of sense of smell (anosmia)
  • Cognitive changes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Constipation
  • Depression and anxiety

How Can Physical Therapy Help With Parkinson’s Disease?How Can Physical Therapy Help With Parkinson's Disease?

Physical therapy plays an important role in managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It focuses on helping individuals maintain their physical function and also improve their quality of life through various techniques and exercises. Here are some important roles of physical therapy in Parkinson’s disease:

Mobility and Gait Improvement

Parkinson’s often leads to problems related to walking, balance, and coordination. Physical therapists work with individuals to improve these issues through exercises and techniques that target muscle strength, flexibility, and posture. They may use gait training exercises to help individuals walk more confidently and efficiently.

Fall Prevention

People with Parkinson’s disease are at an increased risk of falls due to balance and stability issues. Physical therapists assess fall risk and develop personalized exercise programs to enhance balance and reduce the likelihood of falls. They may also teach strategies for safely recovering from a fall.

Range of Motion and Flexibility

Stiffness and muscle rigidity are common in Parkinson’s. Physical therapists use stretching exercises to increase range of motion and reduce muscle stiffness. This can improve comfort and ease of movement.

Strength Training

Muscle weakness is another symptom of Parkinson’s. Physical therapists design strength training programs tailored to the individual’s needs and abilities. Building and maintaining muscle strength can help with everyday activities and mobility.

Posture Improvement

Maintaining good posture is crucial for preventing pain and discomfort in Parkinson’s disease. Physical therapists teach proper body mechanics and posture, which can reduce strain on the individual’s muscles and joints.

Speech and Swallowing

In the later stages of Parkinson’s, speech and swallowing difficulties can arise. Speech therapists (often part of a rehabilitation team) work on speech and language issues, while physical therapists may assist with exercises and techniques to improve swallowing function.


Physical therapists also help individuals understand how their medications may be affecting their movement and function. They work closely with the individual’s healthcare team to optimize medication management.

Education and Home Exercise Programs

Physical therapists educate individuals with Parkinson’s and their caregivers on exercises and techniques they can perform at home. This encourages patients to continue their rehabilitation outside of therapy sessions as well.

Functional Independence

The primary goal of physical therapy in Parkinson’s is to improve functional independence. This includes the ability to perform daily activities, for example, dressing, bathing, or cooking, as well as maintaining an active lifestyle.

Treatment Of Parkinson’s DiseaseTreatment Of Parkinson's Disease

Treatment for Parkinson’s disease aims to manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals living with the condition. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are several treatment options available. The choice of treatment depends on the individual’s specific symptoms, the stage of the disease, and their overall health. Here are some common treatment options for Parkinson’s disease:

    • Medications: Dopamine Agonists, these medications mimic the action of dopamine in the brain and can be used alone or in combination with levodopa. Monoamine oxidase-B (MAO-B) inhibitors, such as selegiline and rasagiline, can help increase dopamine levels in the brain by preventing its breakdown. Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors, like entacapone, are sometimes used in combination with levodopa to prolong its effectiveness.
    • Anticholinergic Medications: These medications, such as trihexyphenidyl, can help control tremors and some other motor symptoms.
    • Amantadine: Amantadine can be used to reduce tremors and dyskinesias (involuntary movements) in some people with Parkinson’s.
    • Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS): DBS is a surgical procedure that basically involves implanting electrodes into specific areas of the brain. These electrodes are connected to a device similar to a pacemaker, which delivers electrical impulses to the brain to control symptoms. DBS is often considered for individuals with advanced Parkinson’s who no longer respond well to medication.
    • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can help improve mobility, balance, and flexibility. Therapists work with individuals to develop exercise routines tailored to their needs.
    • Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapists assist individuals in maintaining their independence in daily activities. They may suggest adaptive devices and techniques to make tasks easier.
    • Speech Therapy: Speech therapists help manage speech and swallowing problems that can occur in advanced stages of Parkinson’s.
    • Dietary Changes: Some individuals find that dietary modifications, such as a balanced diet and adequate hydration, can help manage symptoms and medication effectiveness.

Lifestyle Changes To Help With Parkinson’s DiseaseLifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can play a significant role in managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and improving overall quality of life. Here are some lifestyle changes that can be beneficial for people with Parkinson’s disease:

  • Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity to improve muscle strength, flexibility, and balance. Consider activities such as yoga or tai chi, which can enhance balance and reduce stress.
  • Balanced Diet: Maintain a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
  • Stress Reduction: Manage stress through relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or mindfulness.
  • Sleep Hygiene: Establish a consistent sleep routine and prioritize getting adequate rest. Address sleep disturbances with your healthcare provider if they occur.
  • Fall Prevention: Remove tripping hazards in the home, such as loose rugs or clutter. Use assistive devices like handrails and grab bars to improve safety. Consider balance training exercises prescribed by a physical therapist.
  • Adaptive Equipment: Invest in adaptive devices or assistive technology to make daily activities easier. such as utensils with larger grips, shower chairs, or mobility aids.
  • Speech and Swallowing Techniques: Work with a speech therapist to learn techniques that can help with speech and swallowing difficulties.
  • Stay Socially Active: Maintain social connections with family and friends in order to prevent isolation and depression. Participate in community activities or support groups for individuals with Parkinson’s.
  • Cognitive Stimulation: Engage in mentally stimulating activities like puzzles, reading, or brain games to support cognitive function.
  • Regular Medical Check-Ups: Schedule regular appointments with your healthcare provider to monitor your condition and adjust treatment plans as needed.


Although Parkinson’s disease has no cure, physical therapy is an integral part of its management. t offers a range of benefits, from improving mobility and balance to enhancing emotional well-being. While Parkinson’s remains a challenging condition, physical therapy provides hope and support for those living with it.

Physical Therapy helps patients recover from pain. If you’re experiencing Back, Shoulder, Knee, Neck, Elbow, Hip, or Arthritis pain, a physical therapist at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.