Achieving Freedom Through Movement
PhysioPartners 2869 N. Lincoln Avenue Chicago, IL 60657
» Parkinson's Disease and Atypical Parkinsonian Disorders
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Treatment of Neurologic Conditions & Movement Disorders in Lakeview and the Loop

What are Parkinson’s and Atypical Parkinsonism Disorders?

Parkinson’s Disease, or sometimes just called Parkinson’s or PD, is a chronic degenerative disorder of the nervous system. It occurs when a system in the midbrain (substanstia nigra) which produces the chemical called dopamine, stops producing this chemical. It is still unknown why the cells stop producing dopamine. The chemical dopamine is required in the body for many things including coordination, mood, memory and motivation. It is interesting to note that usually by the time someone is diagnosed with PD, around half of the dopamine-making cells have already died.

According to the Parkinson's Foundation, idiopathic Parkinson’s is the most common form of Parkinsonism. However, about 15 percent of those with symptoms suggesting PD have additional comorbidities and have been termed atypical parkinsonism disorders. These conditions are typically more difficult to treat than PD and include: 

  • Multiple System Atrophy (MSA)
  • Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP)
  • Corticobasal Syndrome (CBS)
  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)
  • Drug-Induced Parkinsonism
  • Vascular Parkinsonism (VP)

What Types of Treatment Options Do You Offer for People with Parkinson’s or Atypical Parkinsonism Disorders? 

At your first visit, your physical therapist will complete an evaluation, assess your balance, and perform a gait analysis and prepare an individualized program to improve your walking speed, pattern, and efficiency. Treatment may include:

  • High Intensity Aerobic Exercise:  Participation in supervised, high-intensity aerobic exercise can slow motor symptom progression in people with PD. Your physical therapist will calculate your individual high-intensity zones, monitor your heart rate during exercise, and create a program for you to perform in the gym or at home.
  • Balance Training:   Your physical therapist will prepare an individualized program to improve your ability to maintain your balance in a number of environments and reduce your overall risk for falls. 
  • Strength Training:  Your physical therapist will create an individualized program to improve strength, power, non-motor symptoms, motor-disease severity, functional outcomes, and quality of life.
  • Gait Training:  People with PD or atypical parkinsonism disorder demonstrate mild gait abnormalities at diagnosis. The best way to maintain a normalized gait pattern to improve balance and gait efficiency is to see a physical therapist immediately after diagnosis -- before problems even start!  
  • Task-Specific Training:  Do you activities at home cause pain, imbalance, energy loss, or other issues? Your physical therapist can evaluate those activities and practice strategies with you to create more efficient and safe movement in your home, work, or community environments. 
  • Dual-Task Training:  A large component of gait and balance training also includes something called “dual task training.” Dual task training consists of a primary task and an additional secondary task – such as walking while using a cell phone or walking while performing calculations. The two tasks could be performed independently as a single task and have distinct and separate goals. In a dual-task intervention, people practice both tasks simultaneously. This training challenges your body and your brain at a high-level to give you the skills to handle any environmental obstacle with confidence. 
  • Care Partner Training:  Sometimes we all need a little help to be our best selves. Care Partners for people with Parkinson's Disease (PWP) often have many questions about how or when to best support their PWPs. Your physical therapist will work with both you and your care partner to figure out the cues, support, home modifications, and more that work best for you to create a safe and stress-free environment at home and in the community. 

Please call (773) 665-9950 for more information or schedule an onsite or virtual appointment.

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