The Basics of PT: Notes from December’s guest speaker, Joy McLaughlin

Our December guest speaker was Physical Therapist, Joy McLaughlin. She has over 34 years of experience working in acute care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation, home care and for the last 12 years, outpatient neurological rehabilitation at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital. In her talk, she covered the basics of WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, WHEN and HOW about PT and Parkinson’s.

WHO needs PT? Everyone with Parkinson’s should at some point on their PD journey see a physical therapist. Since it is a progressive disease, abilities will change, and a physical therapist can address current deficits. The goal is to reduce disability, pain, and dysfunction, by working with neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to make neural changes that improve overall function. This is accomplished by (1) high intensity of effort (2) for a certain amount of time (3) with high repetitions and (4) increasing complexity [such as adding counting backwards while practicing going upstairs]. Other factors for improving function through neuroplasticity are (5) doing exercises in PT that are salient, or important to you, which fires dopamine in your brain, and (6) training where the deficit is–specificity matters.

WHEN: Joy recommends everyone newly diagnosed be seen by a physical therapist to get on an appropriate exercise program. She also recommends seeing a physical therapist when symptoms change or worsen, especially if (1) causing more dystonia and pain, (2) there is any increase in falls or near falls, or (3) there is any new symptom onset [such as freezing], or (4) someone has had a prolonged illness, which can affect their ability to move.

To be continued . . .

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