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  • Joel J. Digris, MSPT, Owner Achieva Rehabilitation

Parkinson's Disease...Fighting Back Works..Trust Us!

Parkinson's Disease affects 1% of the population over the age of 60. That seems like not such a big deal. It may not be a big deal for the 99% but it's a huge deal for people suffering with the movement challenges and non-motor affects of PD.

People with PD have difficulty initiating movement. That doesn't only mean starting a movement. It means changing a movement as well because a change in movement requires initiation of a new movement pattern. Think about every time you walk, how many directions you change without difficulty. Or think about walking through a doorway or changing from grass to concrete or flat to incline or carpet to stairs. All of these circumstances can wreak havoc on a person with PD. What happens is their feet get sticky...they actually feel as if they are stuck to the ground. It's called freezing and trying to power your way through it is even worse...and that's called festinating...the body above the feet keeps moving...and that's like trying to balance an ice cream cone on the point.

What can you do if this happens as a person with PD? Well, first off, you must plan for it to happen. First, mentally stay about 10 to 20 feet ahead of you. Try to plan for that change of direction or the upcoming doorway or the narrowing of the walkway. When you do so, you can prepare yourself to use this little trick: Don't think of walking as moving one foot in front of the other. Think of it as moving one knee up in the air and alternating knees. See, when you have PD, you often think of your feet when your they get sticky and you try harder to move them forward only to make the stickiness worse. You have to put the mental power into the larger muscles from the knee up. When you think 10 to 20 feet ahead of you and prepare for what is coming and you tell yourself to "march" by lifting your knees through the next challenge, you are less likely to get sticky feet.

More challenging is the starting of movement after being still for a long period of time such as getting up from bed. People with PD again have difficulty starting their movement first thing in the morning or when their bladder forces them to get out of bed in the middle of the night. And also the same thing applies to the daytime. If they sit for a while, they are going to be stiff and the legs will just not want to move...sort of like a car sitting out in the winter. Take some time to start and warm it up. Which is exactly what you have to do. If you are getting up from sleep, do what I call "wake up exercises" which are simply left and right alternating leg movements, either heel slides, or leg raises or scissors like snow angels, or rolling your entire body left and right. Do this for a few minutes and your engine will be more warmed up and suited to move the body.

Those are just two of the challenges that people with PD experience on a daily basis. One of my passions is helping them learn how to deal with these as well as build a plan to fight every day against the relentless progressive disease of PD which is not unlike a heavyweight champion...always trying to put you down and keep you down. Fight back!

Bonus tip: Music has a great positive effect on people with PD. It gives the brain a rhythm which is beneficial for walking. Try it out...put your favorite music on and move to the beat. Join the band and march on as you fight daily...I promise that you can battle this thing! We will be there with you...reach out and find out how our In-Home PT Program can help...kind of like a corner man in the ring!


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