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Living With Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease progresses over time, often taking years before symptoms appear. Because it develops gradually, most people have many years of productive living after being diagnosed.

The following are some tips from the National Parkinson Foundation for walking, standing and other day-to-day activities:

Balance

  • If you have a tendency to fall backward or feel lightheaded, move slowly when changing positions.
  • When turning around, don't pivot your body. Walk forward and make a wide U-turn to avoid sharp turns that could cause you to lose your balance.
  • When arising from bed, sit on the side of the bed for 15 seconds before standing. Stand in place with support for an additional 15 seconds before walking. This can prevent dangerous falls.

  • For balance, try using a single-point cane with a large rubber tip.

Reflexes

A decrease in automatic reflexes complicates trying to do two things at once. Automatic Reflexes work less efficiently if competing sensory stimuli take the patient's attention away from a motor function. For instance, it may be difficult to walk and look away at something or attend to a conversation at the same time. One learns to minimize distractions for maximal gait and balance control.

Standing

If you have to stand for an extended period, keep your feet slightly apart for better balance.

If getting out of a chair is difficult, place your feet directly under your knees and stand up firmly to overcome the pull of gravity. Rather than bearing excessive weight on the hands and arms to stand erect, use the large thigh muscles to propel the body upward. Practicing this maneuver strengthens the quadriceps muscle and helps maintain independent ambulation.

Walking

Avoid shoes with rubber or crepe soles. These stick to the floor and may cause you to trip.

Consciously lift your feet when you walk. This will help you to keep from shuffling or falling due to foot drag.

Don't carry objects in both hands when you walk! This can cause you to lose your balance.

Swing both arms freely when walking; this may require a deliberate effort, since the automatic nature of many movements is diminished in Parkinson's. Gently swinging the arms helps maintain balance and lessens fatigue.

If feet feel frozen or "glued to the floor" when initiating movement, several physical strategies can break the pattern: One can step over an actual or imaginary obstacle in the path to continue forward motion. Rocking from side-to-side also can break the sensation of being "stuck in place." It is not helpful for a companion to pull the patient forward or urge the patient verbally to "hurry up," this will often prolong the freezing episode.

Source: National Parkinson Foundation

 

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders
400 Parnassus Ave., Eighth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (415) 353-2273
Fax: (415) 353-2898

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