Treatment & Medication

Treatment Options for Parkinson’s

While there is no cure for Parkinson’s at this time, there are a number of treatments and lifestyle changes that can ease symptoms. Parkinson’s medications are the mainstay of treatment, but modalities are often used in combination to reap the most benefits. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy can be critical to the treatment plan. Surgical options also have an important role for a subset of patients with PD. Finally, complementary therapies can be used to treat some Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Your physician and other healthcare professionals can help you determine the best treatment plan for your symptoms.

Managing your symptoms with medication

Almost all patients with Parkinson’s disease eventually need to take medication to help with their motor symptoms. Several classes of medications are available, while Carbidopa/Levodopa remains the most effective symptomatic therapy and is available in many strengths and formulations. It also may be used in combination with other classes of medications including Dopamine Agonists, COMT Inhibitors, MAO Inhibitors, and Anticholinergic agents. Treatment is highly individualized and adjusted over time based on symptoms and side effects. Once on medication, it is important to adhere to the specific dosing and timing in order to prevent the medication effects wearing off, leading to an increase in symptoms.

Learn More About Parkinson’s Medications

Medication can help control the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, as well as their potential side effects.

Parkinson’s Medications

You can also read APDA’s published supplements on Parkinson’s medication:

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) and focused ultrasound (FUS)

Some patients with Parkinson’s disease may benefit from deep brain stimulation (DBS), a surgical therapy that has been FDA approved for over a decade, or Focused ultrasound (FUS), a more recently-approved procedure. DBS involves implanting an electrode into a targeted area of the brain, usually the subthalamic nucleus (STN) or the globus pallidus interna (GPI). The implants are placed on one side or both sides of the brain as needed. The electrodes are stimulated through a connection to a pacemaker-like device located under the skin in the chest.

Focused ultrasound is a procedure in which beams of ultrasound waves are focused on a designated target in the body, thereby concentrating enough energy to create a small lesion. Individual ultrasound waves do not contain enough energy to do damage as they pass through the body’s tissue. It is not until multiple waves are all focused on a particular spot that a lesion is formed, which can disrupt abnormal circuitry in the PD brain, thus helping to restore more normal movement.

Patients who are considered good candidates for both these procedures are those with a robust response to levodopa, no significant cognitive or psychiatric problems, and no significant problems with balance. These procedures can be helpful for patients who have significant motor fluctuations in which medication response varies during the day and dyskinesias or extra movements that occur as a side effect of medication. The procedures can also help patients with medication-resistant tremors.

Physical, occupational and speech therapy

Physical, occupational and speech therapists can be important partners in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Physical therapy can improve your gait and direct you to the right exercise regimen. Occupational therapy can be helpful to maximize your fine motor skills. Speech therapy can be useful to address speech and language barriers that may arise with Parkinson’s disease. It is never too early to consult PT, OT, and speech experts. It can be beneficial to have a baseline evaluation and set you up for success from the start.

Lifestyle changes

Research has shown that exercise is incredibly important for people with PD and can help alleviate and potentially slow the progression of symptoms. A proper exercise program can include cardiorespiratory exercise (fitness training), resistance exercises (strength training), flexibility exercises (stretching), and gait and balance training. Read more about exercise and Parkinson’s in APDA’s Be Active & Beyond exercise guide.

Diet, exercise & health webinars

A healthy diet can increase energy, maximize the potential of medications, and promote overall well-being. Watch our webinars for more information on health topics:

To learn about the impact of exercise on the brain, watch the following:

APDA also offers many free virtual exercise and movement classes that you can join from anywhere.

Use our Virtual Events Calendar to find upcoming classes and webinars

Treating Parkinson’s with complementary medicine

Complementary medicine encompasses an array of treatment modalities, performed in addition to standard treatments, with the goal of improving quality of life. It incorporates many different practices that can be used alongside conventional medicine to try to ease PD symptoms. There is typically not as much rigorous data to support the use of complementary medicine techniques, as compared to conventional medicine, but many patients find them helpful. Learn more about a number of these practices below:

WATCH: Dr. Gilbert Hosts: Medicinal Plants & Supplements in Parkinson’s Disease

Social support

Social support is also a key element to a PD treatment plan. Talking with people who understand what you’re going through, sharing ideas, and learning from each other can be tremendously beneficial for both people with PD and care partners. Whether it is through an in-person or virtual PD support group, or other social activities, the camaraderie, socialization, and relationships formed can make any PD journey easier and improve quality of life. Contact your local APDA Chapter or Information & Referral Center to find a PD support group that’s right for you.

Assembling your care team

Assembling a team that will provide you with physical and emotional support and adapt to your needs over time is one of the best ways to remain healthy. Parkinson’s disease is complex and requires an interdisciplinary approach to care.

The care team may include, but is not limited to:

  • Movement disorder specialist
  • Primary care provider
  • Rehabilitation specialists including physical, occupational, and speech therapists
  • Nurse
  • Nutritionist
  • Psychologist
  • Neuropsychologist
  • Social worker

The doctor you choose to treat your Parkinson’s disease should be someone with whom you can develop a good partnership.

Participating in Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are a critical step in the development of new PD treatments. Before a treatment can be approved to be used in a patient population it is rigorously tested, in increasingly larger groups of people, to ensure that it is safe and effective.

Clinical trials and their participants have helped make available many new treatments for PD, including new medications, new delivery methods for medications, new deep brain stimulation techniques and new focused ultrasound technologies.

Clinical trials are essential to the future of Parkinson’s research, and APDA is committed to this vital effort.

Learn more about participating in clinical trials

Have a question about Parkinson’s disease?

Our Scientific & Medical Affairs Department can provide expertise and resources to answer your questions and address your concerns.