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Parkinson's HelpLine

 

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Complementary Therapies

Your care “team” can include not just your doctors and nurses, but also other health professionals - such as speech, physical and occupational therapists - that can help you live better with Parkinson’s .

Many people with Parkinson’s find that these therapies can give them symptom relief, ease pain, and enhance their lives during treatment.

A neurologist should be able to provide recommendations for therapy and, if needed, a referral. Unfortunately, insurance may not cover all forms of therapy; sometimes supporting letters of necessity are needed.

View PD ExpertBriefing: Complementary Approaches to Parkinson’s

Therapies and their Value for Parkinson’s

Speech Therapy

What is it?
Speech language pathologists, or therapists, evaluate, diagnose and treat speech and language disorders, problems with swallowing and cognitive communications.

How can it help Parkinson’s?
Speech therapy can help people with Parkinson’s to:

  • Increase voice volume
  • Improve word pronunciation
  • Improve clarity of speech
  • Fix difficulties with swallowing, by evaluating and treating problems using a combination of modified diet, altered swallowing techniques and exercises
  • Improve nonverbal communications such as facial expression

Speech problems can be a part of Parkinson's disease. Problems often begin with the speech becoming softer and more monotonous in quality. Some patients can even develop a stuttering quality to their speech. Later, people with Parkinson’s may have trouble swallowing. As with all signs of Parkinson's, speech problems can continue to worsen as the disorder progresses. When symptoms are severe, they can make oral communication very difficult – which takes a toll on your life.

If speech therapy is started early and performed regularly (daily), it can provide great benefit.

If a time is reached when speech therapy is no longer helping to produce understandable speech, there are different communication devices which may be utilized. A speech therapist can help the person with PD decide which device might be most suitable to the person’s needs, abilities and lifestyle.

How to find a speech therapist
If speech problems are being experienced, ask your neurologist to refer you to a speech therapist.

There is also a speech therapy program, the Lee Silverman Voice Therapy (LSVT), designed for and tailored to the needs of people with Parkinson’s. The Lee Silverman technique can be very beneficial to people with Parkinson's. To find someone trained in the LSVT for Parkinson's disease in your area, call (888) 606-5788 or visit http://www.lsvt.org.

Learn more by reading Speech Therapy in PD.

Physical Therapy

What is it?
Physical therapists provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. They restore, maintain, and promote overall fitness and health.

How can it help Parkinson’s?
A physical therapist can help a person with Parkinson’s to:

  • Increase strength, endurance, movement and control
  • Improve flexibility, gait and balance
  • Address freezing and fall prevention
  • Develop a daily exercise regimen to keep a person mobile

They will come up with exercise, and at times, may even custom-tailor a home exercise program to improve mobility problems and prevent or reduce the impact of future anticipated problems. Care partners are often included to help with everyday activities such as getting in and out of chairs, beds and cars.

How to find a physical therapist
To find a physical therapist in your area, ask your neurologist for a referral and call your insurance company to determine if physical therapy will be covered.

You can also check with friends and members of your support group for suggestions of physical therapists who have experience with PD.

The American Physical Therapy Association, www.apta.org or (800) 999-2782, provides basic information on what physical therapy involves, and can help you find physical therapists who specialize in balance and gait disorders.

Learn more by reading Physical Therapy in PD.

Occupational Therapy

What is it?
Occupational therapists focus on enabling people to do the activities of daily life.

How can it help Parkinson’s?
Occupational therapy (OT) teaches people alternative methods of performing daily tasks that may pose a challenge, such as eating and dressing – that can help people with Parkinson’s keep their independence.

Occupational therapists can evaluate your home and give suggestions to make the home safer and easier to get around. For example, an OT could suggest specific aids or alternatives to allow the person with PD to continue dressing, bathing and feeding himself/herself - from changing buttons to velcro and using elastic shoe laces (that don't need to be untied - you slip the foot into the shoe as you would if it were a loafer), to safety items for the bathroom and kitchen.

They can also assess your work environment and use of technology, such as computers, and make suggestions. OTs can also help caregivers.

How to find an occupational therapist
A neurologist should be able to provide recommendations for these therapies and, if needed, a referral. These therapies may or may not be covered by insurance.

Related Resources from the PD Resource List

Complementary Approaches to Parkinson’s
Category: Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy
Resource Type: PD ExpertBriefings
Publication Date: 2011
Author: Melanie M. Brandabur, M.D.
Publisher: Parkinson's Disease Foundation
Cost: Free
Toll Free: (800) 457-6676
Email: info@pdf.org
Associated URL: www.pdf.org/parkinsononline
Address: 1359 Broadway, Suite 1509
City: New York Zip: 10018
Language: English
State: New York
This webinar discusses a multidisciplinary approach and strategies you can use, in combination with your medication plan, to help ease Parkinson’s symptoms.

Physical Therapy in PD
Category: Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy
Resource Type: Publications
Publication Date: 2007
Author: David Lehman, Ph.D., and Mark A. Hirsch Ph.D.
Publisher: Parkinson's Disease Foundation
Cost: Free
Toll Free: (800) 457-6676
Email: info@pdf.org
Associated URL: www.pdf.org/en/factsheets
Address: 1359 Broadway, Suite 1509
City: New York Zip: 10018
Language: English
State: New York
This fact sheet offers in-depth information and practical tips on physical therapy in PD.

View all Resources Related to Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy