Physical Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease: A Brief Guide

physical therapy for older folks

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neuromuscular and neurological disorder. According to Parkinson’s Foundation, it is so common that almost one million people in the US are living with this condition. If your loved one is one of them, you can show support by learning more about what physical changes they are going through and what to expect during their therapy.

What Are the Physical Effects of Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease causes nerve cell damage in the brain, resulting in lower dopamine levels and brain function and movement problems. During its beginning stages, its effects can go unnoticed because it causes unseen changes in the brain. However, the nerve cell damage can eventually show up as physical symptoms, such as:

  • Balance problems
  • Loss of involuntary movements 
  • Slowed movements
  • Tremors
  • Muscle stiffness

How Can Physical Therapy Help?

This disease can cause many physical disruptions to a person’s daily life. For example, your loved one’s simple movements can become noticeably much slower and unsteady. They may also have difficulty balancing themselves while walking. For this reason, incorporating physical therapy into their treatment plan is important.

While the nerve damage is irreversible, working with a physical therapist can help your loved one improve their gait and balance and boost their ability to perform and recover from basic movements. Additionally, they can strengthen their body and build their cardiovascular capacity with strength and aerobic training. As a result, they can relearn daily activities and keep doing their favorite ones. They will ultimately feel better by enjoying these benefits:

  • Better balance and coordination
  • Fewer spasms
  • Increased mobility and control
  • Improved gait
  • Improved strength
  • More energy
  • Pain relief

What Should Be the Movement Goals in Physical Therapy?

Hiring a physical therapist means having someone by your loved ones’ side who can train them and create an exercise program that targets their motor impairments. Besides personalized exercise routines, they can offer education, self-management advice, and feedback to ensure the exercise program is safe and effective.

Before the first therapy session, let your loved ones think about their movement goals. This will help the physical therapist optimize the exercise routine with their physiological challenges. To give you an idea, here are some of the most common movement goals for patients with this health condition:

  • Treating pain
  • Addressing fall risk
  • Learning about exercises
  • Improving balance, posture, or walking

What Should You Expect during Physical Therapy Sessions?

During the first physical therapy session, the physical therapist will evaluate your loved one’s condition and create an effective treatment plan for them. This assessment involves figuring out together the goals to accomplish. The following sessions will focus on doing physical exercises. Depending on the progress and changing needs, the program will be adjusted to maximize results and ensure needs are still met.


Physical therapy is a critical part of their care. While Parkinson’s disease affects your loved one’s ability to move, you can help them stay active, keep them agile, and maintain their independence through therapeutic interventions. For this reason, make sure to seek professional help early on, even before you notice any physical changes. Doing this will help them maintain and improve their quality of life.

If you are looking for highly trained physical therapists, seek homecare services by Bridge Home Health & Hospice. Our home health care agency offers specialized programs and uses state-of-the-art technology to provide the highest quality of care your loved one needs and deserves. Contact us for more information!