Photo of a physical therapist assisting a patientMaintaining physical activity is a very important component in the management of Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonism. The University of Maryland Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center is at the forefront of research to increase our understanding of the effects of physical and cognitive training in Parkinson’s disease and developing recommendations for our patients.

Outpatient rehabilitation therapy enhances the lives of people with Parkinson's disease. A program of physical therapy and occupational therapy can help people learn movement strategies:

  • How to roll over and get out of bed more easily

  • How to rise from a chair or get out of a car

Therapists sometimes suggest simple devices to assist with daily activities, such as:

  • Shower grab bars
  • Shower stools
  • Elevated toilet seats

Occupational therapists and physical therapists have experience finding ways to help people button shirts, cook and generally keep their lives going. They know about special kinds of utensils that help keep food on a spoon or a fork. Even people with serious tremor, slowness or rigidity can use these utensils to feed themselves without making a mess.

In addition to allowing people to enjoy their meals, this kind of therapy helps people maintain their independence and self-respect. Certain forms of speech therapy can also be valuable in improving voice problems.

If you are living with Parkinson's disease, such therapy can help increase your endurance, strength, general fitness and energy level and also elevate your mood and decrease your anxiety.

The Maryland Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center has developed specific outpatient and inpatient therapy programs for Parkinson's disease. Many of these programs are based at the University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopaedic Institute (formerly Kernan Hospital).

The question whether physical therapy has long term benefits for Parkinson’s disease patients beyond the duration of the exercise program itself, or may even slow down the progression of the disease, is currently the topic of intense and exciting research.

For more information about the University Physicians Consultation and Referral Service, please call 1-800-492-5538 (patients) or 1-800-373-4111 (physicians).

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