Complementary therapies for Parkinson’s disease are used alongside conventional prescribed medical treatment.
Compared to conventional therapies that focus on treating the underlying problem causing the symptoms of a disease, complementary therapies aim to improve the patient’s quality of life by relieving the symptoms and their effect on the body and mind.
Since Parkinson’s disease affects everyday functions, patients often need not only doctors and nurses for care, but also other health professionals such as a speech therapist, physical therapist, and occupational therapist to cope with the disease, manage symptoms, ease pain, reduce stress, and improve quality of life.
Speech and language therapists specialize in all aspects of communication, including nonverbal communication such as facial expressions and body language. They help develop strategies and exercises to resolve problems with speech (such as the voice volume and speed of speech), breathing, facial expressions, and articulation. If communicating becomes difficult, they may recommend different devices that support spoken communication.
A speech therapy program called Lee Silverman Voice Therapy (LSVT) was developed specifically for people with Parkinson’s disease. It’s an intensive therapy that helps patients recognize when their voice is too quiet and trains them to speak more loudly. LSVT is recommended in clinical guidelines and has been shown to have several benefits.
Speech therapists may also help with eating and drinking problems, such as drooling and difficulty swallowing.
Physical therapists (or physiotherapists) help maintain limb function, improve fitness and mobility, relieve pain, improve breathing, and prevent permanent physical disability. Physical therapists can help patients increase their strength, endurance, movement, and control.
They also help restore, maintain, and promote overall fitness and health by developing exercises such as stretching and yoga. They may even custom-tailor a home exercise program to improve mobility problems such as falls and freezing, promote flexibility, gait, and balance, and relieve stiffness. Caregivers are often included to help with everyday activities such as getting in and out of chairs, beds, and cars.
Occupational therapists provide strategies and alternatives to patients to maintain their independence in performing daily tasks that may pose a challenge, such as eating, bathing, and dressing. Occupational therapists can suggest ways to make the home safer and easier to get around, such as safety items for the bathroom and kitchen or rearranging furniture. They may also suggest changes to the work environment, and help choose equipment or adaptations.
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