Researchers from England found physical therapy does not help Parkinson's disease patients. A study from University of Birmingham found no direct lifestyle or clinical benefits linked to occupational and physical therapies among patients suffering from Parkinson's disease.

The findings suggest there is a need to design better programs to target specific benefits.

The study involved 762 patients with mild to moderate Parkinson's disease. Half of the patients were randomly enrolled in either occupational therapy or physiotherapy while the other half (control group) did not enroll in any therapy. The researchers asked the patients to answer the Nottingham Extended Activities of Daily Living Scale and Parkinson Disease Questionnaire.

The findings showed that physical therapy resulted in very little to no abrupt or medium-term significant benefits to the condition or life quality of the patients involved in the study. The study concluded that low-dose, goal-oriented and patient-centric occupational therapy and physiotherapy don't help patients with mild to moderate Parkinson's disease.

Birmingham researcher Dr. Carl Clarke stressed the findings showed there is an urgent need to revisit the current guidelines for Parkinson's disease patients. Clarke said the current dedicated resources seem to be ineffective. These resources could be redirected to help patients with a more severe case of Parkinson's disease.

However, a Mayo Clinic researcher raised that patients should still be referred to therapy if it can help them in any way.

"Certain Parkinson's disease-related symptoms should benefit from routine physical therapy strategies, including gait freezing, imbalance and fall risk, or immobilized limbs," wrote Mayo Clinic's Dr. Eric Ahlskog in an accompanying article published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

Clarke maintained that further research is needed to look into the benefits of physical therapy among Parkinson's disease patients. He said it would be challenging to change the current guidelines for therapies that appear to be working somehow. However, long-term physical fitness should be integrated into the current treatment programs for Parkinson's patients in order to maximize the benefits they bring.

There are more than 7 million Parkinson's disease patients globally, and 4 percent of them are above 80 years old. The research was published in the journal JAMA Neurology on Jan. 19.

Photo: Rose Physical Therapy Group | Flickr

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