Treatment Options for Parkinson’s
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s at this time, there are a number of treatments that can ease symptoms. Parkinson’s medications are the mainstay of treatment, but modalities are often used in combination. 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 Parkinson’s disease. 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 and can be viewed here. 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.
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.
Learn More About Parkinson’s Medications
Medication can help control the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, as well as their potential side effects.
You can also read APDA’s published supplements on Parkinson’s medication:
The surgical option: Deep Brain Stimulation
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. 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 can be done 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. Patients that are considered good candidates for this procedure are those with a robust response to Levodopa, no significant cognitive or psychiatric problems, and no significant problems with balance. The procedure can help patients with medication-resistant tremors. It can also help patients who have significant motor fluctuations in which medication response varies during the day and dyskinesias or extra movements may occur as a side effect of medication.
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:
- Living Well Everyday which reviews the principles of good nutrition for Parkinson’s disease
- Staying Healthy, Keeping Fit for even more information on exercise and PD
For new developments in exercise research, watch Dr. Terrry Ellis’ presentation, The Impact of Exercise & Parkinson’s Disease (embedded video).
Treating Parkinson’s with complementary medicine
Complementary medicine 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. These include yoga and massage.
Participating in Clinical Trials
Clinical trials and their participants have revolutionized Parkinson’s treatment, and have changed the lives dramatically of those affected. They have helped make available many new treatments in addition to improving the delivery methods of medications and new deep brain stimulation techniques.
Clinical trials are essential to the future of Parkinson’s research, and APDA is committed to this vital effort.
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
- Social worker
The doctor you choose to treat your Parkinson’s disease should be someone with whom you can develop a good partnership.
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.