Parkinson's disease and your risk of falling

Happy World Parkinson’s Disease Day 2020!

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects a persons movement, balance and increases their risk of falling. People with Parkinson’s disease in the community have double the falls rate when compared to their peers that do not have Parkinson’s disease.

Exercise interventions including lower limb strengthening and balance exercises have shown reduced risk of falling in older adults. We also know that it is important for people living with Parkinson’s disease to have an assessment with their physiotherapist as early as possible following diagnosis, even if you are only experiencing mild symptoms.

So how can physiotherapy help to reduce your risk of falling?

A study by Sparrow et al.1 (2016) showed that an exercise intervention that was progressive and highly challenging for balance showed a significant reduction in falls, improvements in balance and reduction in fear of falling. This was shown in patients with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease who had experienced falls previously.

Balance exercises need to be challenging but also safe, we don’t want falls occurring! So it is important that you have a discussion with your physiotherapist about how this can be delivered, whether supervised at home or in a group setting. Supervised exercise sessions will ensure that you are working with enough intensity to drive neurological change to improve your balance and also, ensure that you are safe.

Another benefit of having supervised exercise sessions with your physiotherapist is also that if the exercise is too easy we will progress it to one that is challenging. If it’s too easy, it won’t be driving the neurological change that you need! If you have more advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease physiotherapy can help and may be best delivered one on one.

We have a range of strategies to help patients including exercise intervention to help with tremor, postural control and bradykinesia. We can also using cuing including metronomes or counting for stepping guidance and tape on the floor to help with freezing of gait. Whatever your goals are and whatever stage of Parkinson’s disease you have, we are here to help you stay safe and reduce your risk of falling and potential hospitalisation.

In a world that is rapidly changing and effected by the current pandemic it is important to remember that Physiotherapy is considered an essential service. We are here to assist you with your balance, strength and to reduce your falls risk, to help keep you safe at home. We can do this with face to face home visits or if you would prefer we can do telehealth consults. Ask us how !

1 Sparrow, D., DeAngelis, T. R., Hendron, K., Thomas, C. A., Saint-Hilaire, M., & Ellis, T. (2016). Highly Challenging Balance Program Reduces Fall Rate in Parkinson Disease. Journal of neurologic physical therapy : JNPT40(1), 24–30.