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Nonpharmacologic management of Parkinson disease

Nonpharmacologic management of Parkinson disease
Authors:
Jori Fleisher, MD, MSCE
Daniel Tarsy, MD
Section Editor:
Howard I Hurtig, MD
Deputy Editor:
April F Eichler, MD, MPH
Literature review current through: Feb 2022. | This topic last updated: Oct 28, 2021.

INTRODUCTION — Parkinson disease (PD) is a chronic disorder that requires broad-based management including patient and family education, support group services, general wellness maintenance, exercise, and nutrition. Treatment of PD can be divided into nonpharmacologic, pharmacologic, and surgical therapy. A useful algorithm for the management of PD has been published by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) [1].

This topic will review the nonpharmacologic management of PD. The pharmacologic treatment of PD and the treatment of comorbid problems associated with it are discussed separately. (See "Initial pharmacologic treatment of Parkinson disease" and "Management of nonmotor symptoms in Parkinson disease".)

EDUCATION — The prospect of having a chronic and progressive neurologic disease is frightening. Many individuals are familiar with PD and may even have had first-hand acquaintance with its disabling effects in an affected family member or friend. Education is essential in order to provide the patient and family with some understanding and control over the disorder. Education can combat the stigma and misinformation that often surround the disorder [2-4].

However, caution should be exercised in newly diagnosed patients with mild symptoms and an uncertain future with regard to progression; early overexposure to potentially disturbing material may be counterproductive. Focused education surrounding particular symptoms may be more effective and is available through books and other materials (see 'Information for patients' below) written for the lay audience, through national and regional PD organizations (table 1), which publish educational pamphlets and organize symposia for patients and families, and through the internet.

SUPPORT — The emotional and psychologic needs of the patient with PD and family should be addressed. Normal reactions of anger, depression, anxiety, and social and economic concerns often begin with the onset of the disease and evolve as it progresses. Support for the care partner is particularly important as he or she learns to cope with the increasing needs of the spouse or parent, or more rarely, a son or daughter [5]. Support groups are especially valuable for allowing interactions with other patients or families with similar experiences and for providing access to useful educational information [6].

For patients with early PD, referral to another affected patient or family may be less overwhelming than a large support group composed of patients with advanced disease. Young-onset PD groups also have been formed in some locales, and a young-onset PD handbook is available [7]. There are also some national support organizations, several of which have local chapters (table 1).

Referral of the patient and/or family to a psychologist or psychiatric social worker experienced in dealing with chronic illness may be appropriate in some cases. For many patients, disclosing the diagnosis is a source of concern, particularly among younger patients, employed patients, and those with younger children [8]. Social workers, psychologists, and other trained therapists can offer support and resources to aid in these challenging discussions. There are books available to help children of different ages understand the diagnosis of PD in a loved one, written by individuals with PD and by care partners [9-11]. In other instances, referral for legal, financial, or occupational counseling is indicated.

EXERCISE AND PHYSICAL THERAPY — Regular exercise promotes a feeling of physical and mental wellbeing; it is especially valuable due to the chronic nature of PD and its associated progressive motor limitations. Exercise may not slow the progression of akinesia, rigidity, or gait disturbance, but it can alleviate some secondary orthopedic effects of rigidity and flexed posture such as shoulder, hip, and back pain; improve function in some motor tasks [12-14]; and improve some nonmotor symptoms [15,16].

The available evidence suggests that regular aerobic exercise has a small positive impact on PD [14,17-22]. As an example, a randomized trial in patients with mild PD within five years of diagnosis assigned participants to high-intensity exercise, moderate-intensity exercise, or a waitlist control. High- and moderate-intensity participants engaged in four days per week of treadmill exercise for six months, achieving 80 to 85 or 60 to 65 percent of their maximum heart rate, respectively, compared with waitlist controls. The intervention met its feasibility goals, and after six months, there was a small but statistically significant difference in the change in Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale motor score in the high-intensity group compared with controls [23].

Multiple studies also support tai chi as a beneficial form of exercise in patients with PD [24-27]. A randomized controlled trial of 195 subjects with mild to moderate PD found that a six-month program of twice-weekly tai chi training was superior to resistance training and stretching for improvement in measurements of postural stability, stride length, and functional reach [24]. There were fewer self-reported falls at six months for the tai chi group compared with the resistance training and stretching groups (62 versus 133 versus 186), and the difference was statistically significant for the comparison with the stretching group. In a meta-analysis that included 21 studies of individuals with PD, 15 of which were randomized trials (n = 735), tai chi/qigong was associated with small to medium improvements in most studied motor outcomes including the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale III, balance, Timed Up and Go testing, six-minute walk, and falls [25].

Thus, exercises to improve balance, flexibility, and strength should be emphasized. Brisk walks, tai chi, swimming, and water aerobic exercises may be particularly useful, although available studies comparing the effectiveness of different interventions are not definitive [28,29]. Other modalities that may improve functional outcome for patients with PD include the following [13]:

Multidisciplinary rehabilitation with standard physical and occupational therapy components [30,31]

Use of compensation strategies to facilitate gait (eg, external auditory, proprioceptive, or visual cuing) [32,33]

Treadmill training [23,34-36]

Balance training and high-intensity resistance training [37,38]

High-intensity agility training [39]

Cued exercises with visual (mirror), auditory (metronome), and tactile feedback [40]

Active music therapy [41]

Dance therapy [42,43]

Lee Silverman Voice Treatment physical therapy program (LSVT-BIG) [44]

Many patients engaged in physical therapy gain lasting confidence and a sense of control over one aspect of the disease, especially if they have never engaged in physical activity in the past. Parkinson-specific exercise programs may also provide social support and camaraderie, separate from and complementary to the support options above [45,46]. Referral to a physical therapist or exercise group is a good way to get patients started in such activities.

SPEECH THERAPY — Dysarthria and hypophonia are common manifestations of PD, and small randomized trials support speech therapy as an intervention to improve speech volume [13,47-50].

Several techniques have been shown to be more effective than no treatment in small, nonblinded randomized trials in patients with PD. One technique employs speech therapy emphasizing prosodic features of pitch and volume reinforced with visual feedback [47], while another aims to maximize phonatory effort and loudness (the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment [LSVT-LOUD]) [48,50]. Patients should be directed to therapists trained in PD-specific methods for optimal benefit.

In practice, many individuals find improvements in their speech volume and prosody immediately after completing therapy; however, nonadherence to vocal exercises at home may lead to attrition of the initial benefits. As with physical and occupational therapy, patients should be encouraged to continue their speech therapy exercises at home to maintain their level of function.

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY — As PD progresses, impairments in dexterity commonly affect a patient's ability to complete activities of daily living. Occupational therapists can work with patients to adapt certain activities, introduce assistive devices, and change the environment to foster safety and continued engagement in the activities a person enjoys. Most occupational therapy trials have been small; however, one randomized trial of 191 patients found a benefit in self-perceived performance of daily activities after three months [51].

MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION — Various approaches aimed at cultivating or enhancing mindfulness, often incorporating meditation and/or yoga, have been studied in patients with PD [52-55]. This is an area of great interest among patients and care partners and of continued study among researchers, given the relative lack of side effects and potential benefits in self-efficacy, function, and social relationships. A randomized trial in 184 patients with mild to moderate PD found that an eight-week mindfulness yoga program led to similar improvements in motor function and disability compared with stretching and resistance training exercise and superior results on measures of depression, anxiety, well-being, and quality of life [55].

NUTRITION — Older adults with chronic illness are at risk for poor nutrition and weight loss. Patients with PD are specifically at increased risk of malnutrition and weight loss due to increased metabolic demands, anosmia and hypogeusia, dysphagia, and constipation [56].

Prompt recognition and management of this problem is important to avoid loss of bone and muscle mass. No specific diet influences the course of PD, although certain recommendations can be made [57].

A high-fiber diet, adequate hydration, and regular exercise help manage the constipation of PD.

Large, high-fat meals that slow gastric emptying and interfere with medication absorption should be avoided.

The MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) may reduce the incidence and progression of parkinsonism and has been associated with a reduced incidence of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer disease [58-60].

Dietary protein restriction is not necessary except in some patients with advanced disease and motor fluctuations in whom competition with other amino acids interferes with L-dopa absorption. (See "Medical management of motor fluctuations and dyskinesia in Parkinson disease", section on 'Unpredictable "off" periods' and "Medical management of motor fluctuations and dyskinesia in Parkinson disease", section on 'Failure of "on" response'.)

There is no evidence at this time that large doses of vitamin E or other antioxidants are useful in PD [13].

SOCIETY GUIDELINE LINKS — Links to society and government-sponsored guidelines from selected countries and regions around the world are provided separately. (See "Society guideline links: Parkinson disease".)

INFORMATION FOR PATIENTS — UpToDate offers two types of patient education materials, "The Basics" and "Beyond the Basics." The Basics patient education pieces are written in plain language, at the 5th to 6th grade reading level, and they answer the four or five key questions a patient might have about a given condition. These articles are best for patients who want a general overview and who prefer short, easy-to-read materials. Beyond the Basics patient education pieces are longer, more sophisticated, and more detailed. These articles are written at the 10th to 12th grade reading level and are best for patients who want in-depth information and are comfortable with some medical jargon.

Here are the patient education articles that are relevant to this topic. We encourage you to print or e-mail these topics to your patients. (You can also locate patient education articles on a variety of subjects by searching on "patient info" and the keyword(s) of interest.)

Basics topics (see "Patient education: Parkinson disease (The Basics)")

Beyond the Basics topics (see "Patient education: Parkinson disease treatment options — education, support, and therapy (Beyond the Basics)")

PATIENT PERSPECTIVE TOPIC — Patient perspectives are provided for selected disorders to help clinicians better understand the patient experience and patient concerns. These narratives may offer insights into patient values and preferences not included in other UpToDate topics. (See "Patient perspective: Parkinson disease".)

SUMMARY

Education is essential in order to provide the patient with Parkinson disease (PD) and family with some understanding and control over the disorder. In addition, the emotional and psychologic needs of the patient and family should be addressed. Support groups are a valuable resource (table 1). (See 'Education' above and 'Support' above.)

Regular exercise and various physical therapy modalities appear to offer some benefit for improving function in patients with PD. (See 'Exercise and physical therapy' above.)

Dysarthria and hypophonia are common manifestations of PD. Speech therapy may be helpful in improving speech volume and maintaining voice quality. (See 'Speech therapy' above.)

No specific diet influences the course of PD, but a high-fiber diet, adequate hydration, and regular exercise can help to reduce constipation associated with PD. Emerging evidence suggests the MIND diet may be associated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment. Large, high-fat meals that slow gastric emptying and interfere with medication absorption should be avoided. (See 'Nutrition' above.)

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Topic 4899 Version 31.0

References

1 : The scientific and clinical basis for the treatment of Parkinson disease (2009).

2 : Stigma Experienced by Parkinson's Disease Patients: A Descriptive Review of Qualitative Studies.

3 : Patients' and caregivers' experiences of the impact of Parkinson's disease on health status.

4 : The treatment of early Parkinson's disease: levodopa rehabilitated.

5 : Living with a person who has Parkinson's disease: the spouse's perspective by stage of disease. Parkinson's Study Group.

6 : A comprehensive support program: effect on depression in spouse-caregivers of AD patients.

7 : A comprehensive support program: effect on depression in spouse-caregivers of AD patients.

8 : When do patients with Parkinson disease disclose their diagnosis?

9 : When do patients with Parkinson disease disclose their diagnosis?

10 : When do patients with Parkinson disease disclose their diagnosis?

11 : When do patients with Parkinson disease disclose their diagnosis?

12 : Physical therapy and Parkinson's disease: a controlled clinical trial.

13 : Practice Parameter: neuroprotective strategies and alternative therapies for Parkinson disease (an evidence-based review): report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology.

14 : Randomized clinical trial of 3 types of physical exercise for patients with Parkinson disease.

15 : Effects of Exercise on Non-motor Symptoms in Parkinson's Disease.

16 : Randomized, Controlled Trial of Exercise on Objective and Subjective Sleep in Parkinson's Disease.

17 : Forced, not voluntary, exercise improves motor function in Parkinson's disease patients.

18 : Does vigorous exercise have a neuroprotective effect in Parkinson disease?

19 : Phase I/II randomized trial of aerobic exercise in Parkinson disease in a community setting.

20 : The Therapeutic Potential of Exercise to Improve Mood, Cognition, and Sleep in Parkinson's Disease.

21 : Physiotherapy versus placebo or no intervention in Parkinson's disease.

22 : Effectiveness of home-based and remotely supervised aerobic exercise in Parkinson's disease: a double-blind, randomised controlled trial.

23 : Effect of High-Intensity Treadmill Exercise on Motor Symptoms in Patients With De Novo Parkinson Disease: A Phase 2 Randomized Clinical Trial.

24 : Tai chi and postural stability in patients with Parkinson's disease.

25 : The impact of Tai Chi and Qigong mind-body exercises on motor and non-motor function and quality of life in Parkinson's disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

26 : Can Tai Chi training impact fractal stride time dynamics, an index of gait health, in older adults? Cross-sectional and randomized trial studies.

27 : Tai Chi for Reducing Dual-task Gait Variability, a Potential Mediator of Fall Risk in Parkinson's Disease: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.

28 : Physiotherapy for Parkinson's disease: a comparison of techniques.

29 : Does Tai Chi improve balance and reduce falls incidence in neurological disorders? A systematic review and meta-analysis.

30 : Multidisciplinary rehabilitation for people with Parkinson's disease: a randomised controlled study.

31 : In-patient multidisciplinary rehabilitation for Parkinson's disease: A randomized controlled trial.

32 : Compensation Strategies for Gait Impairments in Parkinson Disease: A Review.

33 : Perception and Use of Compensation Strategies for Gait Impairment by Persons With Parkinson Disease.

34 : Treadmill training with body weight support: its effect on Parkinson's disease.

35 : Long-term effect of body weight-supported treadmill training in Parkinson's disease: a randomized controlled trial.

36 : Treadmill training for patients with Parkinson's disease.

37 : The effects of balance training and high-intensity resistance training on persons with idiopathic Parkinson's disease.

38 : Resistance Training with Instability for Patients with Parkinson's Disease.

39 : A High-Intensity Multicomponent Agility Intervention Improves Parkinson Patients' Clinical and Motor Symptoms.

40 : The role of sensory cues in the rehabilitation of parkinsonian patients: a comparison of two physical therapy protocols.

41 : Active music therapy in Parkinson's disease: an integrative method for motor and emotional rehabilitation.

42 : Effects of dance practice on functional mobility, motor symptoms and quality of life in people with Parkinson's disease: a systematic review with meta-analysis.

43 : Dancing for Parkinson Disease: A Randomized Trial of Irish Set Dancing Compared With Usual Care.

44 : Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT)-BIG to improve motor function in people with Parkinson's disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

45 : Experiences of older adults in a group physiotherapy program at a rehabilitation hospital: A qualitative study.

46 : Effects of a Group Protocol on Physical Activity and Associated Changes in Mood and Health Locus of Control in Adults with Parkinson Disease and Reduced Mobility.

47 : Speech therapy and Parkinson's disease: a review and further data.

48 : Changes in vocal loudness following intensive voice treatment (LSVT) in individuals with Parkinson's disease: a comparison with untreated patients and normal age-matched controls.

49 : Speech and language therapy versus placebo or no intervention for speech problems in Parkinson's disease.

50 : Speech treatment in Parkinson's disease: Randomized controlled trial (RCT).

51 : Efficacy of occupational therapy for patients with Parkinson's disease: a randomised controlled trial.

52 : A mixed methods evaluation of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course for people with Parkinson's disease.

53 : Mindfulness-based lifestyle programs for the self-management of Parkinson's disease in Australia.

54 : Perceived Activities and Participation Outcomes of a Yoga Intervention for Individuals with Parkinson's Disease: A Mixed Methods Study.

55 : Effects of Mindfulness Yoga vs Stretching and Resistance Training Exercises on Anxiety and Depression for People With Parkinson Disease: A Randomized Clinical Trial.

56 : Nutrition and Nonmotor Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease.

57 : Nutrition and Nonmotor Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease.

58 : MIND Diet Associated with Reduced Incidence and Delayed Progression of ParkinsonismA in Old Age.

59 : MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer's disease.

60 : MIND not Mediterranean diet related to 12-year incidence of cognitive impairment in an Australian longitudinal cohort study.