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Parkinson's Disease

Losing use of legs

03/26/2007

Question:

My husband is 67 years old and has had Parkinson`s disease for 15 years. He has reached a point where he cannot get up from a chair, get out of the car, and falls frequently because his legs will not support him. He has had major cramps over the years which have taken their toll on his legs. I don`t know how to help him with this problem. He doesn`t want a wheelchair but canes and walkers aren`t much help. Any advice?

Answer:

Patients with PD often have trouble transferring, standing, walking, and have frequent falls.  Often, a course of outpatient physical therapy can be beneficial.  This therapy should focus on gait imbalance and fall prevention.  In addition, PD patients are encouraged to practice stretching and balance exercises at least once a day (a therapist can help a patient develop an exercise routine). 

Another useful exercise is to repeat standing from a chair several times, and repeat this at least 3 times a day.  This may be more difficult with soft cushioned chairs.  It is recommended that a patient begins this exercise with a simple non-cushioned chair (like a dining room chair) and slowly work toward using a more difficult cushioned chair. 

Also, a patient with PD should try to walk continuously for 15 at least every other day.  This can be done with or without a walking assistant device, but it is suggested that a patient practice safe measures.  A physical therapist can help determine if a patient requires an assistant device, and also help find the most beneficial type.  Patients have to remember that an orthopedic injury will worsen walking problems, and can further impair a person's lifestyle.  

Some patients with PD also find Tai Chi helpful for balance trouble.

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Response by:

Punit  Agrawal, DO Punit Agrawal, DO
Assistant Professor of Neurology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University