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Saturday, 4 December, 1999, 00:14 GMT
Physiotherapy can aid Parkinson's patients
Physiotherapy Physiotherapy can relieve the side effects of drugs

Physiotherapy could play a major role in improving the treatment of Parkinson's Disease, researchers have found.

However, the use of physiotherapy is extremely patchy and tends to be a low priority for health authorities.

Researchers at the Institute of Rehabilitation at the University of Northumbria found physiotherapy to be useful for stiffness, posture, balance and helping people to get up from a chair or out of bed.

Physiotherapy will never be a cure for Parkinson's Disease but it could have a profound role to play in managing the disease and minimising its impact on everyday life
Professor Rowena Plant, Institute of Rehabilitation
It was particularly useful for reducing the side effects of drug therapy which include writhing movements and difficulty in initiating movement.

There are also indications that physiotherapy can help to reduce some symptoms of the disease itself such as rigidity.

Lead researcher Professor Rowena Plant said: "Physiotherapy will never be a cure for Parkinson's Disease but it could have a profound role to play in managing the disease and minimising its impact on everyday life.

"If physiotherapy is given to patients at an early stage it can help to prepare the body for what will be a degenerative process.

"If you can get the body toned up the disabling effects are likely to be less profound than they would otherwise be."

Low priority

Professor Plant said physiotherapy was not widely available because of a lack of awareness of its benefits.

She said: "Some health authorities also consider it low priority because you do not get a quick fix, it does require long-term input."

Parkinson's Disease is a progressive disease which attacks the part of the brain which controls movement. Physiotherapy can only delay the progression of the disease, it cannot stop it entirely

Parkinson's is characterised by stiffness, tremor and increasing loss of mobility.

It usually affects people between the ages of 50 and 60 although it can also strike younger people.

The main current treatment for the disease is drugs but their success is limited and the side effects can be significant.

The research, done on behalf of the Parkinson's Disease Society, was the first ever in the UK and Europe to look seriously at physiotherapy as a means of treating Parkinson's Disease.

Mary Baker, chief executive of the Parkinson's Disease Society, said: "We now have hard evidence to prove that physiotherapy is a cost effective way of treating people with Parkinson's Disease and improving their quality of life."

Mrs Baker said the crucial factor was to keep Parkinson's patients on their feet for as long as possible.

"Once they are off their feet incontinence soon sets in, relationships suffer and there is a relentless move towards nursing home care.
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