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General Guidelines for Managing Parkinson’s Disease

Living a healthful lifestyle is thought to help control symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Lifestyle changes seem to be particularly helpful in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease and may help you delay the start of medications.

Get Adequate Rest

Try to sleep approximately eight hours per night. Consider taking a nap or two during the day to stay refreshed. Consult your doctor if symptoms, such as restless leg syndrome, rapid eye movement (REM)-behavior disorder, tremor, or difficulty turning in bed at night, are interfering with your ability to sleep.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Consider consulting a dietitian to learn about a healthful diet. Eating well can give you more energy and help you manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Later in the disease, changes may have to be made to your diet due to swallowing difficulties. This may include a diet of soft or chopped foods, or thickened liquids. It is important to keep an eye on your weight, especially weight loss. Malnutrition can worsen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Exercise Regularly

An exercise program can offer many benefits, such as:

  • Increasing strength
  • Improving stamina
  • Optimizing coordination
  • Decreasing rigidity
  • Improving flexibility
  • Delaying progression of disease

Your doctor can recommend a physical therapist for you to work with. You may also want to try tai chi, a type of martial art that is used to promote health. This form of exercise has shown benefits in improving balance in patients with Parkinson's disease.

If you are fearful of falling, your doctor can give you information about fall prevention. If needed, you can also use a cane or walker for further support.

Participate in a Speech Therapy Program

Speech therapy can be useful in some patients in whom verbal communication is impaired because of an impaired ability to speak loud enough.

Manage Your Stress

Stress is known to worsen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Learning stress management can help control your symptoms.

Facing a chronic, progressive disease is very stress provoking. Many people with chronic diseases experience depression, which is extremely common in people with Parkinson’s disease. Talk to your doctor about support groups in your area. It can be extremely valuable to share your challenges and triumphs with others who are also coping with the condition.

Modify the Home to Enhance Safety and Access

Many individuals require access to safety equipment that can assist in improving quality of life. Occupational and physical therapists can assist in determining when equipment such as tub rails, raised toilet seats or other home modifications may be useful.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2013 -
  • Update Date: 09/30/2013 -
  • Alonso-Frech F, et al. Exercise and physical therapy in early management of Parkinson disease. Neurologist. 2011;17(6 Suppl 1):S47-53.

  • Parkinson disease. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Parkinsons%20Disease.aspx. Accessed September 5, 2013.

  • Complementary therapies. Parkinson’s Disease Foundation website. Available at: http://www.pdf.org/en/managing%5Fpd. Accessed September 5, 2013.

  • Li F, Harmer P, et al. Tai chi and postural stability in patients with Parkinsons disease. N Engl J Med. 2012;366(6):511-519.

  • Managing your PD. Parkinson’s Disease Foundation website. Available at: http://www.pdf.org/en/managing%5Fpd. Accessed August 22, 2012.

  • Parkinson Disease. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/parkinsons%5Fdisease/parkinsons%5Fdisease.htm. Updated September 3, 2013. Accessed September 5, 2013.

  • Parkinson's disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated August 27, 2013. Accessed September 5, 2013.

  • Ropper AH, Samuels MA, "Chapter 39. Degenerative Diseases of the Nervous System" (Chapter). Ropper AH, Samuels MA: Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology, 9e: http://www.accessmedicine.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/content.aspx?aID=3639002.

  • 2/17/2012 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Li F, Harmer P, et al. Tai chi and postural stability in patients with Parkinson's disease. N Engl J Med. 2012;366(6):511-519.