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There are approximately 500,000 people in the United States that have Parkinson’s disease and almost 50,000 new cases are reported annually. This disease usually affects people that are between 50 to 60 years of age, but it has also been diagnosed in people in their 40′s, 70′s and 80′s.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disease that affects the movement of a person’s body. It has to do with the degeneration of the nerve cells, neurons that slowly fall apart in a region of the brain that controls movement. This neuron degeneration creates a shortage of the brains signaling chemical (neurotransmitter) known as dopamine, causing the movement impairments that characterize the disease. Many scientists have tried to figure out why these neurons fall apart and there are a lot of possibilities including hereditary and the changes in the environment, but they still have not come up with a definite reason.
Movements or symptoms that are typical of patients with Parkinson’s disease include: tremors, trembling or shaking of a limb or limbs, usually when the person is resting; slow movements; the inability to initiate or start a movement; rigid limbs; a shuffling gait; and stooped posture and decreased balance. In addition, people that have Parkinson’s disease show reduced facial expressions and usually speak softly. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease and there is not a cure yet.
Those that suffer from Parkinson’s have several options that they can talk to their doctor about. Usually people that have symptoms of Parkinson’s take medication to increase the dopamine levels in their brain. Some people have surgery for a deep brain stimulator that decreases the tremors. Ultimately, the most important thing that a person with Parkinson’s disease can do is exercise. While medication and stimulators can be used to decrease tremors, a person that has Parkinson’s still has the other problems that need to be addressed.
Physical and Occupational Therapy can help with the problems of rigid limbs and body, stooped posture, balance, gait deficits and many other functional problems. They look at functional activities and activities of daily living to help achieve independence. Physical Therapy Specialists Clinic (PTSC) staffs physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, occupational therapists, and certified occupational therapist assistants who have all helped and continue to help patients with Parkinson’s disease gain or maintain their independence. For nearly 20 years PTSC has been serving the rural communities of south central Missouri.