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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

Therapy for Parkinson's

Published January 22, 2016 12:19 PM by Dillon Stickle
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Neurology released a study on Tuesday which suggested that the current standard of care for early-stage Parkinson's patients may be a waste of time and money. The study said that both PT and OT offer "no improvement of quality of life" and that there were no "short or medium-term benefits."

A recent article on ADVANCE for Physical Therapy and Rehab Medicine claimed that, "Patients today are far more educated on the disease, have lots of questions, and know that physical therapy combined with prescribed exercises will impact their quality of life moving forward. Potentially, it could even slow the progression of the disease."

We shared the study with our Facebook fans via a Yahoo News article, and there seemed to be a united consensus: the study was misleading or misrepresentative of the role PT plays in the treatment of a patient with Parkinson's disease.

Here are some things PTs had to say:

"Treating injuries is not the main focus of any plan of care from a skilled PT that is treating someone with PD."

"That seems at odds with the multiple studies that have clearly shown how exercise and therapy benefit Parkinson's patients short- and long-term."

"If there was no progress or benefits for PD patients in this study, than the PTs may need a review of how to write functional goals."

"It depends on what the PT focuses on. Doing only strengthening exercises won't help. Focusing on balance, movement strategies, etc. does help. But, these have to be incorporated into daily life by the patient and family/caregiver."

Some fans pointed out the fact that balance exercises and range of motion were not part of the study, which many PTs consider their role to improve in a patient with Parkinson's. Some even argued the study was skewed because of biased healthcare providers.

What are your thoughts on the role of PT in cases of patients with Parkinson's? Let us know in the comments.

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3 comments

A family member was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gherig's Disease), also a neuromuscular disease - as you know. One of the neurologists he went to told him to avoid physical therapy! He said PT would actually aggravate the muscles and worsen his condition. I read many articles on ALS after his diagnosis. All of them recommended exercise and keeping active, as these will improve quality of life significantly, and possibly prolong life. We as PT's need to reach out to physicians so they know what we can do!

Celia Rosenberg, Physical Therapist - Between jobs February 12, 2016 4:08 PM
FL

This study is bogus and absolutely misleading.  The "current Standard of care for early-staged Parkinson's patients" in Britain must just be inadequate on not effective.  Were the therapists treating these patients experienced with PD and using proven, effective techniques?  I have been treating people with PD for over 20 years and can honestly state that most of my patient's see measurable, significant results with PT.  Myself and my staff use techniques and strategies that most non-neuro therapists probably wouldn't know about or even try which I know leads to articles and statements about therapies being non-effective.  The patient, their families and the referring physicians need to seek out therapists who are specifically trained and committed to working with the PD population.  Then, you will see more articles and testimonials on the one of the most effective treatments for PD, which is skilled PT/OT services.

Roger Stroh, Physical Therapy - PT, owner, Rehab4Life Physical Therapy February 5, 2016 9:12 AM
Fargo ND

Hey Advance! You are doing the rehab professions a BIG disservice by not reporting the methodology of this JAMA article on rehab and PD! I just read the abstract, and the design is clearly flawed. The median intervention offered the test group was 4x 1 hr over EIGHT WEEKS! This needs to be investigated further: the conclusions could just as well be that 4 hours of rehab in 8 weeks is NOT ENOUGH THERAPY TO BE EFFECTIVE.

Christine Cook, PT - asst. professor PTA, OLOL college January 29, 2016 8:50 AM
Baton Rouge LA

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