Physiotherapy & Occupational Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the nervous system. It results from damage to the nerve cells in a region of the brain that produces dopamine, a chemical that is vital for the smooth control of muscles and movement.

The symptoms of someone living with Parkinson’s disease would commonly present as:

  • Tremors (or shaking) – the most common symptom which usually begins in one arm or hand
  • Rigidity in movement
  • Changes to movements and patterns (walking is commonly affected)
  • Reduced strength – especially in the side that is exhibiting the tremor
  • Stooped posture
  • Balance problems

Parkinson’s can also cause pain, depression and problems with memory and sleep.

While exercise is important for everyone, exercise and specific Parkinson’s Disease rehabilitation plays a vital role for people living with PD. Research has shown that exercise may have protective effects, reducing the risk of developing PD, and exercise has also been shown to relieve some of the motor symptoms of PD. Regular exercise is essential for people with PD to maintain balance and mobility, and it may help slow the progression of the disease (reference).

We recommend people begin therapy as soon as possible. There are a lot of strategies Physiotherapists use to prevent the rate of decline. There is the added benefit of amazing physical and emotional benefits from Physiotherapy.

Total Health Physio looks at the positive side of the condition, people can live a very long life and a very good life with Parkinson’s disease by managing it with rehabilitation and in combination with medication!


The benefits of our PD rehab program include:

  • Improved Strength
  • Improved Balance
  • Optimised gait patterns and other movements
  • Improved Conditioning
  • Reduced falls risk
  • Improved posture

People often find our Physiotherapy sessions enjoyable and helps with their mood and quality of sleep.

Occupational Therapy

Our Occupational Therapists help assist the individual to return or continued meaningful activities

Our OTs address:

  • Ensuring the property is safe to access and live in
  • Mobility and skill during activities of daily living
  • Ensuring existing equipment is clinically appropriate
  • Identifying new pieces of equipment that could benefit the person

Overall, our OTs help individuals with PD live independently and adapt to the environment!

Total Health Physio has a passion for treating people with Parkinson’s. Having worked in Aged Care since 2011, we have been able to witness the amazing changes and benefits our therapy can have on an individual’s quality of life and functional capacity!

Optimising movement for Parkinson’s disease patients

As we alluded to in our introductory paragraph, PD can cause challenges regarding movement, to be more specific, these are:

  • Bradykinesia – slow movement and impairments adjusting body position
  • Shuffling gait – shorter strides or dragging of the feet
  • Difficulty performing fine motor tasks – such as tying shoelaces
  • Retroversion or forward posture – excessive leaning backwards or forwards
  • Freezing – difficulty initiating a movement

Awareness of these movement challenges is the first step to creating an individualised therapy program to improve them!

Parkinsons Specific exercise rehab and therapy could be summarised into three main areas:

  1. Cardiovascular conditioning – i.e. walking, boxing, dancing, small obstacle courses, sit to stand tests
  2. Strength training – i.e. theraband exercises, weighted exercises, bodyweight exercises, gripping exercises
  3. Stretching – i.e. general stretching, PNF stretching, static stretching, dynamic stretching

We would prescribe clinically appropriate exercises based on an individual’s level of function and meaningful goals.

In terms of doing exercise therapy with Parkinson’s disease, we believe in performing these with purpose and magnitude. Tasks need to be specific with high amplitude in order to stimulate the nervous system and achieve the desired outcome.

We believe in dual-task exercises as part of our PD rehabilitation. So we may say “while you’re doing sitting to standing exercise, every time you stand think of a boy’s name and say it out loud”.

This is referred to as executive functioning and places demand on memory, speed, attention, focus, flexibility & creativity. As a result, exercise can improve the cognitive component of PD.

We believe multitasking and performing exercises with great purpose (instead of simply performing the motions) load the persons systems to create the action and leads to great outcomes!