Unloading to Treat the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

There’s no question that exercise has a positive impact on patients living with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). It’s been shown to slow the progress of tremors, improve balance and mobility, and allow for the continuation of daily activities. Beyond PD-specific symptom management, though, lies the significant impact exercise can have on the more intangible—but very real—aspects of living with PD, things like depression, memory loss, and low self-esteem.

The good news is that nearly any exercise that doesn’t increase injury risk is open to people living with PD. This can mean anything from walking to Tai Chi, cycling to swimming, or even yoga. Recently, there’s even several boxing gyms just for patients with PD cropping up across the country.

So, no matter the patient’s preferences, the options are there.

The challenge is that PD makes safe and comfortable exercise a challenge as it progresses into middle and later stages. As symptoms develop, patients typically experience shaking, balance issues, and falls risk, as well as stiffness, reduced flexibility, and diminished conditioning. Since these symptoms tend to discourage movement and exercise, patients tend to become sedentary, allowing symptoms to progress while they become less and less motivated to exercise.

Still, it is possible to exercise with the symptoms of PD, even as it progresses into more advanced stages. However, doing so often requires a modified program and the help of a physical therapist or other medical professional.

And that’s where unloading comes in.


Unweighting tools like AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ technology can help reduce body-weight load during exercise, allowing patients with PD to exercise for longer durations while monitoring their gait, preventing injuries and falls, and incrementally increasing exercise intensity. It’s working out, but it’s working out smart: with the help of AlterG technology and a qualified physical therapist. Patients can participate in a workout program that’s tailored to their specific symptoms, needs, and progression.

The results can be remarkable.

If you couldn’t tell by now, the management of Parkinson’s Disease and other neurological disorders is one of our passions as physical therapists. Aside from our ongoing work with these patients, as well research into the benefits of unloading in the realm of PD, we’ve written at length on the topic here on the AlterG blog. If you’d like to learn more about neurological disorders and physical therapy, here are three good places to start: