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Parkinson's disease

Written by Caitlin Erlank Physiotherapist BSc HCPC MCSP AACP

What is it?

Parkinson's Disease is a progressive neurological condition that ranges in clinical presentation and has a prevalence of 2.7% in the UK. The condition is of an unknown cause, however, there is evidence to suggest genetic links as well as environmental factors contributing to the increasing incidence rates. Parkinson’s onset is a result of degeneration to the dopamine producing neurons in the brain. Low dopamine levels results in a variety of symptoms throughout the body:

Common Symptoms:

Dopamine is largely responsible for controlling, organizing and coordinating movements in the body through complex neural pathways in the brain. This is the cause of the four most common and significant symptoms for diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease:

  • Tremor (involuntary shaking or trembling movements, most common in the hand)

  • Slowness of movements (Bradykinesia)

  • Rigidity (Feeling of limbs being stiff or stuck during movements)

  • Balance or coordination issues

These common symptoms are often noticed when people struggle to walk, experiencing a shuffling gait, have issues initiating movements such as standing from a chair or turning, and experience “freezes” during movements.

However there are a range of symptoms that can occur such as, mental fogginess, mood changes, effects to speech and swallowing, bladder and bowel issues as well as restless leg syndrome.

How Physiotherapy can help you:

Whilst Parkison’s Disease needs medical intervention to support dopamine levels, it is also crucial to use physiotherapy alongside medication to obtain the best outcomes of both.


A Physiotherapist role here at SMART Physiotherapy would be to assess each individual person, with a home visit or in the clinic, and identify the problems you struggle with the most. After a full neurological and musculoskeletal assessment, problems could include, but are not limited to, issues with movements, strength, coordination and balance. Understanding the specific areas that hinder your day to day life and independence is the first step to improving them. Physiotherapists will also consider social and emotional factors to help best identify how to integrate treatment into your lifestyle, using goal setting and objective markers to track improvements.


After the assessment we will create a personalized rehabilitation program that focuses on improving your specific limitations. This is achieved through a range of modalities such as: strengthening and stretching programs, manual therapy to improve tightness or pain, and functional training to improve your day to day independence. A key element of physiotherapy is the ongoing support available as the symptoms change throughout the course of treatment, ensuring you are progressing or maintaining function consistently.

Overall Parkinson's Disease can be a scary diagnosis and you will benefit from utilising the knowledge and expertise physiotherapists can offer about the condition. It is important to seek help early on to slow the progression as much as possible and allow you to continue living a happy, independent, functional life, for as long as possible.


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