Aging & Health A to Z
Lifestyle & Management
In addition to medical treatments, the following non-drug, non-surgical approaches can help ease symptoms of Parkinson’s, help people with the disease carry out activities of daily living, and enhance the quality of their lives.
Support and Education
Being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease can be frightening and cause worry, anger, sadness and other emotions. Support groups can help patients and families interact with other people living with Parkinson’s to share experiences and information.
Exercise can help people with Parkinson’s improve their mobility and flexibility and can also help prevent complications like joint pain that can be caused by some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as stiffness and stooped posture. Exercise also has a positive effect on mood. Exercise programs can help patients feel more confident and in control of their disease. People with Parkinson’s disease should check with their healthcare provider before starting or changing an exercise program. A physical therapist can help develop an exercise program that fits an individual’s needs and abilities.
Older adults can benefit from physical therapy aimed at helping them manage motor symptoms. Physical therapists can teach people with Parkinson’s how to strengthen their muscles, expand their range of motion, and improve their balance. They can help with managing symptoms like tremor, rigidity, and “freezing.” Physical therapists can also teach people with the disease how to walk more safely and how to use a cane or walker when necessary. This can help prevent falls that become more common as the disease progresses, and may cause serious injury.
An occupational therapist can help people with Parkinson’s disease carry out their daily activities more comfortably and safely. Often, occupational therapists will visit the home to determine how to make it safer for people with Parkinson’s. Among other things, the therapist can determine where handrails, banisters, and “grab bars” might be needed, and make other changes to prevent falls. Some occupational therapists can also evaluate driving skills, to help determine if the disease is affecting a person’s ability to drive safely.
A speech therapist can help people with the disease improve swallowing, and can recommend changes in diet for patients with advanced problems swallowing. Speech therapists can also help patients with muffled or slurred speech, a hoarse voice, and other speech problems speak more clearly and comfortably.
People with Parkinson’s disease do not need to eat a specific diet, but getting enough calories and nutrients will help maintain bone, muscle, and strength. People having problems with weight loss or poor appetite or eating may benefit from seeing a registered dietician. Certain changes in diet can also help some people. For example, protein in a meal can reduce the effect of levodopa-carbidopa in some patients. Drinking enough water and eating a high-fiber diet—including whole grains, fruits and vegetables—can help ease constipation.
Updated: March 2017
Posted: March 2012