August 15, 2018
In 2011 I was working in an orthopedic physical therapy clinic and had two clients newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). PD can often begin with signs and symptoms that mimic orthopedic dysfunctions. I scrambled and searched to find Parkinson’s specific care locally in Marin County and could not come up with any solutions.
This process began my own journey of PD specific education and clinical work. Flash forward to the present and fortunately there are many PD specific exercises courses available in the community.
The availability of classes is fantastic. However, it can create a new challenge as it requires consumers to be more savvy about selecting the right program. Unfortunately, just because a class suggests it is specific for PD, does not mean it actually is.
Neuroscientist and physical therapist Dr. Becky Farley has provided one of the best perspectives with which to evaluate a movement program for PD. She is the developer of the LSVT Big and Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery (PWR!) programs and the leading researcher in movement solutions specifically to address the symptoms of PD. I had the good fortune to study under Dr. Farley at a PWR! therapist training in 2015 and courses during the Parkinson's Congress in Portland, Oregon 2016.
To gain some insight into Dr. Farley’s perspectives, please check out the interview with her:
When choosing an exercise class or course, please consider the following (developed from Dr. Farley’s suggestions)
1) Are you engaging in forced exercise?
Forced exercise is working out at a harder level than you would normally choose on your own
2) Are the movements functional?
Are the movements you are engaging in going to translate to movements that you need in your daily life. If you are uncertain, please ask an instructor?
3) Are you working on amplitude training?
Is your instructor cueing and asking you to consider how large your movements are?
I hope this is a helpful summary that enhances your selection of movement classes in your community.
4) (This is my own point) FUN! Are you having fun? Doing yoga on the beach may not be functional but for me, it is actually fun. Make sure you are having a good time, whatever you select.