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April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

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April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month is a time to bring attention to this serious disease and educate the community about available resources to help those living with the condition. Parkinson’s, a progressive brain-based movement disorder, negatively affects the ability to perform daily activities by causing body tremors, stiffness in the limbs and trunk, slowness of movement, and impaired balance and coordination. Parkinson’s disease is the second most-common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s – about 60,000 Americans are diagnosed every year.

While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, early detection, medication, and other types of treatment can help alleviate symptoms and increase quality of life.

Common Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson's disease symptoms are different for everyone. Early signs may be mild and even go unnoticed at first. Movement-related symptoms typically start on one side of the body and remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect the limbs on both sides.

Parkinson's symptoms may include:

  • Tremors of the arms, hands, legs, voice, or fingers
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness
  • Burning sensations
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Problems with balance
  • Stiff movements
  • Lack of facial expression
  • Dizziness
  • Frequent mood changes
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Dry and peeling skin on the face
  • Body temperature irregularity
  • Restless legs syndrome

Diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease
Accurately diagnosing Parkinson’s disease can be difficult, because there is no specific test that can conclusively determine if a patient has the disease. Doctors carefully consider symptoms, family history, and other factors to make a diagnosis. This often makes it challenging to detect Parkinson’s early and start treatment.

However, doctors are becoming more aware of early symptoms of Parkinson’s that precede motor symptoms, such as loss of sense of smell, sleep disturbances, ongoing constipation that’s not caused by another condition, and mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. That’s why it’s so important to always visit a physician when you exhibit any new symptoms that have no other evident cause.

Treating Parkinson’s Disease
Through the groundbreaking research and efforts of those in the health care community, treatments and outcomes for those with Parkinson’s have improved considerably over the years.

Types of treatments for Parkinson’s disease include:

Medications help people living with Parkinson’s by increasing the level of dopamine in their brain; affecting other brain chemicals, such as neurotransmitters, which transfer information between brain cells; and helping control nonmotor symptoms.

Deep Brain Stimulation
For those with Parkinson’s who do not respond well to medication, a surgical procedure known as deep brain stimulation may be performed. During this surgery, the doctor implants electrodes into the brain and connects them to a small electrical device implanted in the chest. The device and electrodes painlessly stimulate areas of the brain that control movement to help alleviate many motor symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as tremors and stiffness.

Physical Therapy
LSVT BIG is a research-based physical and occupational therapy that addresses the symptoms of Parkinson’s and helps those affected by the disease to perform everyday tasks more effectively. This intensive one-on-one treatment trains those with Parkinson’s to use their body more normally by learning how and when to use extra effort to produce bigger motions. “We’re training individuals with Parkinson’s to use what others would consider bigger movements,” said Erica LaGruth, Program Director of Outpatient Rehabilitation Services at Christian Health’s Bolger Short-Term Rehab. “Through LSVT, that individual learns how to create normal movements by exaggerating their movements. Through treatment, they build up tolerance and endurance, learn appropriate technique and position, and understand what it feels like to make that big a movement.”

LSVT BIG Therapy at Bolger Short-Term Rehab
At Christian Health’s Bolger Gym and Wellness Center, our expert physical, occupational, and speech therapists use state-of-the-art, innovative approaches to treat patients with a variety of conditions, including using LSVT BIG therapy to help those living with Parkinson’s disease.

For more information about LSVT BIG and other short-term rehab services at Bolger Short-Term Rehab, contact Erica LaGruth at (201) 848-5518 or