While there is no cure, many different treatment options exist to help address the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Each person’s individual treatment plan is based on a variety of different factors. These may include age, general health status, how far the symptoms have progressed, and how they respond to specific treatments. Medication, therapy, surgery and lifestyle changes can all be used to create an effective treatment plan.
Nearly all people with Parkinson’s require medication at some point to manage their motor symptoms. Carbidopa/Levodopa is the most common medication. Other drugs used to treat Parkinson’s include dopamine agonists, COMT inhibitors, MAO inhibitors, and anticholinergic agents. Exact dosages, formulation and strength are all specific to the individual person.
Physical therapy, as well as occupational and speech therapy, are often helpful elements of a treatment plan for Parkinson’s disease. Physical therapy improves gait and balance, and can serve as an entry point for a more complete exercise program. Speech therapy helps improve communication issues, and occupational therapy addresses fine motor skills.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical option which has been in use for several years. It can sometimes help people whose tremors are resistant to medication. Another surgical option for medication-resistant tremor is focused ultrasound, which is non-invasive and can be an alternative when DBS isn’t an option.
Beyond medical interventions like drugs and surgery, lifestyle changes are a treatment option a person with Parkinson’s can manage themselves. Proper diet and nutrition can often help improve some symptoms — or counter the side effects of some medications. Getting adequate sleep and reducing stress is also an important consideration. But according to the latest research, the most powerful home treatment for Parkinson’s may be exercise.
The benefits of exercise for Parkinson’s symptoms is well-supported by research. For many people, an exercise program can be a vital part of slowing — or even reversing — the progress of the disease. As with medication, it’s important that exercise be tailored to the specific needs of the individual.
Cardio, strength training, and exercises like yoga and tai chi which improve balance and flexibility, can all be part of a home exercise program for Parkinson’s. Aside from general fitness training, there are specific exercises designed to help push back the symptoms of Parkinson’s. These include things like gait and balance training, “big” exercises, facial exercises, hand exercises and voice training.
It can seem challenging, especially for those who were sedentary before their diagnosis. But exercise is one powerful way to maintain and improve mobility, balance and flexibility over time. It can also be a big boost to mental health and attitude.