elderly home care and parkinson's diseaseThis is the last post in our Parkinson’s Awareness series. Our previous post provided ways to control and relieve nausea by eating and drinking certain things frequently throughout the day, especially before bed and at rising. This post is about the exercises and movement techniques your loved one can do to ease muscle pain by building strength, endurance and flexibility.

Many people with Parkinson’s report that exercise makes them feel stronger and more in control of their bodies. In addition to relieving some physical symptoms, research suggests that exercise has a positive impact on independence, quality of life, personal outlook and mood in people with Parkinson’s. 

But first, always check with you doctor before starting any type of exercise regimen. The doctor will know the best types and the most helpful duration and intensity of exercises for your loved one’s specific situation. He or she may also be able to recommend a physical therapist or other professional to help relieve muscle pain. 

Exercises that stretch and lengthen the limbs through their full range of motion are the best way to get started. Here are some ideas:

  • Face Yoga

Stretching and stimulating muscles in the face helps relieve tension throughout the entire body. Why? We tend to hold tension in our foreheads and jaws, so when we release this tension, the rest of the body follows suit. To stimulate and strengthen the facial muscles, tongue and jaw, have your loved one stretch the mouth by opening it wide, making funny faces in the mirror and lengthening the tongue in all directions. Chewing food vigorously also does the trick. 

Face yoga — made popular by the stick-your-tongue-out, facially energizing lion pose — is becoming extremely popular in both yogi and non-yogi populations. Not only does it release tension and provide an exercise you can do at your desk, but many yoga experts also swear it reduces wrinkles, creases and lines caused by aging and stress. Check out this Livestrong article on yoga for the face.

Try the lion pose yourself — perhaps in a room alone at first if you’re self-conscious. You’ll notice a jovial release of stress and tension instantly.

  • Aquatic Therapy

Aquatic therapy, with the help of an instructor and aquatic fitness equipment, is highly recommended for individuals with Parkinson’s. Buoyancy and resistance are the key players here.

Compared to the harsh impact of land exercises, the buoyancy of water greatly reduces strain to joints. This, in turn, allows for greater mobility.

Buoyancy also provides support and reassured balance for weak muscles. Since the fear of falling is greatly reduced in water, movement is less guarded and your loved one will likely feel a greater sense of confidence, liberation and desire to participate. This self-assurance in the water will translate to a more positive outlook out of the water. 

Because water provides more resistance than air, gentler movements yield a greater return. And because your loved one is surrounded by water during aquatic therapy, this resistance produces a total-body workout with a great deal less exertion than land exercises. Furthermore, the multi-directional resistance enhances body awareness, which helps with posture and movement out of the water.

The benefits of water aerobics are pretty extensive for anyone — just standing in a pool improves posture –but especially for the elderly … and especially for individuals limited by the physically debilitating effects Parkinson’s disease. 

While exercise will not reverse the effects of Parkinson’s, the strength and sense of control it provides will improve your loved one’s quality of life, mood and perception of self.

Check back soon or subscribe to the Griswold Blog for next week’s series on a ALS Awareness

Do you have experience with Parkinson’s & water aerobics? If so, please share in the comments below!