Thursday, February 26, 2009

Let's Do the Parkinson's Swing

Arm Swing Exercise for Parkinson's Disease

Since PD patients are often stiffer and weaker on one side in the earlier stages of PD, one of the things that suffers is gait which is somewhat dependent upon the arms for balance. If the arms don't swing, the stride usually shortens to compensate for the lack of shoulder and arm movement as well as the leg stiffness on the "bad" side. And of course, balance also becomes problematic.

Just telling yourself to swing your arms is not going to do it. You have to practice through exercise...regularly!

Sit in a chair - preferably a chair without arms - or one narrow enough that your arms can hang over the sides

Can you swing both arms? Together? In opposition?
If you can't, here's the exercise. You might need an assistant.
This is pretty simple but not necessarily easy.

If you have trouble, your assistant should hold the stronger arm in place while you work the weaker side.
Don't let the stronger side arm move. Just hold while the weaker-stiffer side performs the exercise once.
After the shoulder raises - the Shrug - is completed and the Forward and Back is also performed - release the arm

Get the shoulders moving first - we've done this before - the shoulders will help to propel you as well as provide balance.

Sit tall - head up - eyes forward
Raise the shoulders - let fall - raise both shoulders and let fall
Now alternate: raise the right shoulder only - let fall
Then the left shoulder: rise and fall
Together up and down - up and down
Shake it out

Sitting erect in your chair - head up - eyes forward
Swing your right arm front to back - reach back - swing forward
The shoulder will assist as it rises and falls with the swing.
Now repeat with the left arm

Next you will try alternate arm swing using both arms
Get the weaker side going first: forward-back-forward
Now the stronger side: forward-back
Keep the shoulders involved with the swing.

Now we're going to march in place with the arms swinging.
Sit erect - knees and feet comfortable apart for your march
(March them out now to that place)

Just as your assistant held your strong arm in place, if you have a problem raising the leg from the hip,
the strong leg should be held in place while you raise the weaker leg a few times. Release the leg

Lets March in Place.
Get the march going by raising first one leg from the hip, stepping down (heel first) and repeating with the other leg
Add the arm swing.

Music Maestro:
We're going to suggest the slower Wedding March for this exercise.
You might also like Riders for the Flag, Washington Post or the familiar Stars and Stripes Forever.

When you have completed your march with your arms swinging it is time to stand by leaning forward, rise from the chair
and march or walk down the hall or around the room.
Your stride goal is the one foot steps down a full foot length or more in front of the other.
If you have a freeze issue, your assistant must be ready with your key words to break the freeze and prevent a fall.

What we are doing with this exercise is similar to both the nautilus work favoring the weak side and the swim therapy marching with knees up and arms swinging except no equipment and no water.

The thing about Parkinson's is that unlike recovering from an injury or surgery, the body will stiffen again. These exercises must be done at least 3 times a week.

Did you know that 5-6 hours of vigorous exercise a week will raise the endorphin and dopamine levels? That should help ease some of your Parkinson's disease symptoms, however briefly.

Note: This is another in the series of exercises I designed to help Steve with his short stride. You will find that they are more strenuous than they might appear at first glance.

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