Can Hydrotherapy Help With Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a uniquely difficult condition faced by many throughout the US. A great deal of mystery surrounds the illness, which can have devastating effects on the body. It doesn’t strike based on financial status, race or gender, and it has affected many famous figures, including Janet Reno, Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, David Phinney and Robin Williams.

Despite the high profile of Parkinson’s disease among celebrities, political figures and athletes, there is not yet a cure for Parkinson’s. Research continues on this condition in hopes it will someday be a distant memory.

Until that day arrives, it’s important for clinicians to consider innovative and creative ways to treat Parkinson’s disease and the many symptoms associated with the condition. And this includes using aquatic therapy for Parkinson’s patients.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease affecting patients’ central nervous systems. Approximately 1 million people in the United States live with Parkinson’s disease, with between 50,000 to 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year. There is no cure for this condition, each year. There is no cure for this condition, and its complications make it the 14th leading cause of death for people living in the United States.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke classifies Parkinson’s disease as a motor system disorder. The condition happens as a result of a loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. Physicians use neurological examinations and medical history to diagnosis the disease.

While there are some notable exceptions, Parkinson’s disease primarily affects people over the age of 60. The cause of Parkinson’s disease remains a mystery. The consensus, at this time, is Parkinson’s results from a combination of both environmental and genetic factors, though these are all listed as risk factors:

• Age
• Heredity
• Gender — men are more likely than women to develop Parkinson’s
• Exposure to toxins

Symptoms Of Parkinson’s

The first step in understanding the benefits of aquatic therapy for Parkinson’s patients is to know about its symptoms. Parkinson’s is a progressive illness, with symptoms worsening over time. In the beginning, a slight tremor in the hands or legs may be the only visible symptoms.

In more advanced stages, patients may notice some or all of the following symptoms:

• Trembling in hands, feet, arms, legs, jaw and face
• Stiffness of limbs and trunk
• Slowness of movement
• Postural instability
• Falls
• Impaired balance
• Gait problems
• Loss of coordination

These symptoms may progressively worsen during later stages of the disease, making it difficult for patients to perform both simple and complex tasks, including:

• Walking
• Talking
• Chewing
• Swallowing
• Dressing
• Grooming

Because the illness produces potentially severe repercussions, depression is a common co-existing condition among Parkinson’s patients, with more than half of Parkinson’s disease patients also suffering from clinical depression. Other conditions, such as sleep disruptions, skin problems, constipation and urinary problems, often occur in combination with Parkinson’s disease.

These issues are considered non-movement symptoms and include things like:

• Fatigue
• Irregular blood pressure
• Sexual dysfunction
• Smell dysfunction
• Sudden drops in blood pressure when standing
• Slower movement of food through the digestive tract

When looking for new treatments or alternatives to traditional treatments, consider the full scope.

Treating Parkinson’s Disease With Aquatic Therapy

Physical therapy and exercise regimens, like hydrotherapy, are quickly becoming prominent methods for treating a variety of illnesses, including neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s.

Hydrotherapy adds specific advantages for many Parkinson’s patients. As someone who owns or manages a physical therapy clinic, you can introduce aquatics for your existing Parkinson’s patients. It may even help you attract new Parkinson’s patients to your facility.

After Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurological condition American adults face. Physicians often treat the disorder with heavy medications, which potentially yield unintended or unwanted side effects.

You may be wondering, “Is aquatic therapy effective for Parkinson’s?” Hydrotherapy offers an alternative form of treatment which can be used in combination with drug therapies to produce improved results.

Aquatic therapy has been used to help people like a lady, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease as well as multiple sclerosis. She used aquatic sessions to increase her activity levels, improve core strength and build stamina. Her results included regaining the ability to tend to daily tasks, as well as play the piano.

How Aquatic Therapy Helps Manage Parkinson’s Symptoms

Hydrotherapy treats a wide range of illnesses and orthopaedic or chronic disorders. Among them are many conditions related to strength and balance. While aquatic exercise for Parkinson’s disease does not reduce all risks of falls — which is a key concern among many Parkinson’s patients — it can be beneficial by strengthening the core and improving muscle memory.

Parkinson’s Symptoms Managed Using Aquatic Therapy

Independence is a constant concern among Parkinson’s patients and their family members, especially as the disease progresses. So they can maintain their independence longer, aquatic therapy specifically assists patients in the following:

• Maintaining or regaining strength
• Building balance
• Enhancing posture
• Improving flexibility
• Increasing body control
• Reducing rigidity
• Increasing acceptance of physical activity

For Parkinson’s patients, aquatic therapy can mitigate the above key concerns so patients can maintain or regain their independence.

Swimming is a great way of staying fit and healthy, whatever your age or ability. It’s fun and can give you an all-round body workout. Here, physiotherapist Bhanu Ramaswamy tells us more about swimming for people with Parkinson’s:

Swimming is an excellent way of increasing your stamina – especially if you experience painful joints or weak bones. This is because the buoyancy of the water takes some of the weight of your body. It can also build your confidence to put weight on your joints, and get your heart and lungs working harder.

Thinking about your posture – Bhanu Ramaswamy. Physiotherapist for Parkinson’s UK

If you find your Parkinson’s causes you to stoop forward when you are standing, you may find your body tips forward when you are swimming on your front. On your back, the opposite happens so your body won’t float well.

You can overcome this problem by warming up your muscles properly and by stretching up as tall as you can before you get in the water.

Sometimes, you may feel your body becoming tight again, even if you have stretched before starting your swim. If this happens, you might find it easier to use a swimming aid. A physiotherapist can advise you on using different swimming aids and where you can buy them from. If you decide to try any of these aids out, you should ask someone to supervise you in the pool the first time you use one, in case you get into difficulty.

Moving easily in the water

Parkinson’s often affects one side of your body more than another. If you experience stiffness, it may become more difficult to use your arms when you swim, making your neck and back muscles stiff.

Thinking about moving easily in the water and thinking about the actions you are making can make a swim easier for a while. Remember though, if you have difficulty concentrating and moving at the same time, this may not be a good solution for you.

Parkinson’s UK 215 Vauxhall Bridge Road London SW1V 1EJ. Tel: 020 7931 8080. Parkinson’s UK is the operating name of the Parkinson’s Disease Society of the United Kingdom. A registered charity.