How can we improve movement and prevent falls in Parkinson’s Disease?

Patients with Parkinson’s Disease and related disorders have trouble moving, a condition known as bradykinesia (literally slow movement). In addition to this difficultly in movement, many Parkinson’s patients also have balance issues. When you combine unsteadiness with an inability to make quick corrective movements, the result is an increased risk of falls and associated injuries.

While Parkinson’s medications are extremely helpful, they often prove inadequate in terms of improving balance and ambulation. There is growing evidence that neural rehabilitation programs can improve both movement and balance in patients suffering from Parkinson’s symptoms. Research published in the journal Clinical Rehabilitation suggests that providing cueing along with treadmill training improves walking ability in Parkinson’s patients. The results of another study of Stochastic Vestibular Stimulation, published in the journal Brain Stimulation demonstrated improved balance and movement in Parkinson’s patients.

In this therapy, random stimulation of the inner ear (the vestibular system) helped improve balance and also showed some ability to improve bradykinesia and slowed movement. Cueing and vestibular stimulation are simple techniques that can be applied during rehabilitation.

Another promising therapy for functional improvement in the Parkinson’s patient is oculomotor training (eye exercises). Very specific eye movements may to activate brain regions known to be deficient in Parkinson’s disease patient. Combining these and other techniques into comprehensive Parkinson’s rehabilitation protocols can often improve both balance and free movement beyond standard physical therapy. While researchers work diligently to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease, advances in neural rehabilitation can improved quality of life.