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How do I find a Parkinson’s physical therapist to keep me exercising?

Monday April 02, 2012

A physical therapist (PT) can help improve balance, flexibility, coordination and strength.  A PT will work with you PD symptoms to find the best exercise program for your movement and pain. There are two parts to this question: 1. Finding the right therapist and 2. How to stay motivated?   The following tips may help:

Finding the right physical therapist (PT) can be difficult.

  • Ask your neurologist for the name of a PT in your area that specializes in movement problems from brain conditions
  • Call your community hospital’s rehabilitation department and if their therapists are trained as neurology specialist or if they have an active PT program for stroke (although a different condition does require specific knowledge of movement and brain function)
  • Interview your therapist on day one to be sure their style, goals and how these goals will be achieved match yours.
  • Ask people in support groups about PTs that worked for them

How do I stay motivated after PT?  The problem lies in the fact that PT can not continue indefinitely. Medical insurance such as Medicare clearly states that PT sessions must be oriented toward specific and attainable goals. Once these goals are met a person must be discharged from therapy.  This is true even if a person does better in therapy but declines once therapy is complete.

  • You can continue with a PT one on one after discharge but will likely be charged for the service.
  • You can ask the therapist for a group of exercises for you to get started with a personal trainer.  You can find personal trainers in many places including the YMCA, Senior Centers or your local gym. Be sure to ask your trainer how much experience they have with your condition.
  • Call your community hospital help line for more recommendations
  • Consider joining a class at your local community center. Dance, Yoga, Tai chi or even chair exercises can help
  • Look for other specialists such as yoga therapists or Feldenkrais instructors that can be of help
  • Always get approval from you doctor before beginning a new program

Learn more about these topics on the Wellness Center.  Help others and share what works for you by commenting to this post.

Monique L. Giroux, MDMonique L. Giroux, MD
Medical Director, Northwest Parkinson's Foundation

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