There are over one million people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the United States. Every year about 60,000 new people are diagnosed. This neurological disease usually affects people age 60 or older. Once a person is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, life changes. There are five different stages of PD (Parkinson’s Disease).

Stage 1 – Mild symptoms that generally don’t interfere with daily activities.  Tremor and other movements symptoms generally occur on only one side of the body. Changes in posture, walking and diminished facial expressions occur, such as less smiling.

Stage 2 – Symptoms worsen, such as tremors, rigidity and the appearance of other movement symptoms.  Both sides of the body are now being affected. Daily activities are becoming more difficult. Poor posture and walking problems are more noticeable.  Living alone is usually still possible. Daily tasks are becoming more difficult and lengthy.

Stage 3 – Considered midstage. Loss of balance and slowness of movements are the hallmarks. Falls are more common. Still, the person is independent. Simple activities such as dressing and eating start becoming more difficult.

Stage 4 – Symptoms become more severe. Standing upright and walking may require assistance, such as a walker. A person with Parkinson’s at this stage usually needs assistance.  Daily tasks are very difficult and require a family member or a professional caretaker. The person is generally not able to live alone.

Stage 5 – This is the most advanced and debilitating stage. It requires a  wheelchair for mobility or the person is completely bedridden, requiring around the clock care.  A person at this stage can experience hallucinations, delusions, and depression.

These are tremendous adversities that people with PD have to deal with. Michael J. Fox has a saying, “When you meet a  person with PD, you have met a person with PD”,  meaning no two people with Parkinson’s look the same.  Each situation is unique and different, in symptomology and presentation.  This makes treatment very difficult.

When it comes to medication and Parkinson’s patients, it becomes a challenge. Due to the fact that it’s very difficult to metabolically balance many of the medications used to help regulate dopamine levels, energy levels, tremors, and other symptoms, bad side effects often occur. It is very tricky and almost an art form for the physician to prescribe the dosage needed. Initially, it’s usually overprescribed or under-prescribed. It’s a fine line between getting it to a balanced level for the Parkinson’s patient so they are able to get relief but none of the side effects of the medication.

As a corrective exercise specialist and neurokinetic therapist, I have the honor and privilege of working with people who have Parkinson’s Disease. I have seen the progression of the disease through various stages.  In my profession, I have witnessed the benefits of PD patients having a comprehensive fitness/therapy program, versus the progression of PD without any support and intervention.  It is critical to find someone qualified to help the patient with their overall fitness and health, which includes nutrition, physical strength and stability, and mental health.

As a movement specialist, I want to stress that people who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease need to be on a program that is specialized for their individual needs. Like Michael J Fox said, no two Parkinson’s patients are alike. Find someone who has experience with PD and movement. Movement is crucial because one has to first move properly so they can maintain and/or progress to more aggressive exercise. In Part 2,  I will discuss programs and therapies that can help with Parkinson’s Disease.

Michael Metchikian NASM, CPT, CES, PRT, NKT Level 3