The 3 BEST Tips to help you move easier with Parkinson's Disease from a Doctor of Physical Therapy
Updated: Nov 4, 2022
The Following Tips utilize compensatory pathways (or "neural detours") to achieve your goal. Check out this article for more information.
Disclaimer: Below, you'll find my 3 most frequently offered tips for those with Parkinson's Disease. This is NOT a substitute for evaluation and skilled physical therapy treatment. Any exercise comes with risks such as loss of balance or muscle soreness. Please make sure you have safety precautions in place if you try these things, in case you lose your balance.
If you have any concerns about your balance, or using these techniques, please reach out to your PT. If you need help finding one near you, please reach out and I'll try to help :)
#1 When you are “stuck” or “frozen” try this!
If you get frozen while walking, and you feel like your feet are stuck to the floor, do NOT try to push through it. This will just make you tired, increase your risk of falling forward, and probably won't help. Freezing is often caused by having too much weight on the leg you’re trying to move. To fix this and get “unfrozen”, pause for a moment and try “The Four S’s”.
Stop where you are and find your balance
Stand up straight
Shift your weight all the way over one leg
Take a step with the opposite leg
This process allows your brain to give attention to the movement and addresses the reason most people freeze while walking. It also uses the Purposeful Movement Detour.
#2 When you feel like your steps are getting small, Count your Steps.
Really, you should try counting your steps out loud. Here are 2 separate techniques you might use.
For this one, you’re going to count a rhythm as you step. Say out loud: “1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, …” No need to count to 100 or anything like that. Think of it like a marching cadence. In fact, some people prefer to use a metronome or a song with a strong beat to walk with. You step in time to the beat and you try to keep your steps at an even tempo. This technique takes advantage of the auditory cuing detour.
"Predict the Future"
This option, which may work better if you can't keep a steady beat, will use the purposeful movement detour. In this technique, you locate your target location, (the front door, the kitchen table, the front entrance of the store) and make a prediction. “How many steps will it take me to get to the target location?”
To make this work, you need a real prediction, so let’s say you said “It’ll take me 6 steps to get to the door.” Next, you get to test your prediction. Count your steps (out loud is better) between your starting point and the target. Being correct isn’t vital, you’ll improve your predictions with time, but trying to meet the prediction will help your brain use the purposeful movement pathway to walk more efficiently.
#3 If you feel it's impossible to get out of a chair
Similar to #1, this one starts with a Pause. Relax back into your seat and assess your setup.
Are you far enough forward in your chair? Scoot forward if needed
Are your feet too far out in front of you? Tuck them under
When you’ve assessed your setup, and are ready to try again, make sure to do a BIG lean forward to get your weight over your feet as you stand up.
What If I was just diagnosed and don’t have many motor symptoms yet?
Fabulous! At this point, your focus should be on slowing the progression of the disease. The single BEST way to do that is through exercise. Need to know what exercise is best for you? Check the Resources linked below or send me an email. I’d love to help!
DAVIS PHINNEY FOUNDATION: I highly recommend their webinars and their “Every Victory Counts” Guide full of useful information shared in an accessible format (Live Well with Parkinson's TODAY - Davis Phinney Foundation)
Parkinson's Foundation | Better Lives. Together. This organization provides funds for many research and treatment opportunities. They also have a wealth of information available.