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Hunter forum shows benefits of exercise in managing Parkinson’s Disease

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The benefits of speech and physical exercise therapy to help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease were front and centre at a Hunter forum this week.

More than 80 people – including Paterson MP Meryl Swanson and Maitland City mayor Philip Penfold – attended the function, hosted by the Thornton-based provider of allied health rehabilitation services to those with neurological and other complex conditions, Neuro Alliance.

Residents living with Parkinson’s, as well as their families and carers, heard from Parkinson’s NSW clinical lead Rachael Mackinnon; PD Warrior founder and Advance Rehab Centre CEO Melissa McConaghy; and Neuro Alliance’s senior physiotherapist Tim Mogg and senior speech pathologist Amanda Freund.

Neuro Alliance general manager and founder Daniel Buck said while there was no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there were effective treatments to help people manage symptoms and continue to enjoy many years of independent and productive lives.

“Even though there are medications, surgical options and advanced medical therapies, exercise is the key,” he explained.

“It’s important for people to be as active as possible, including getting regular, Parkinson’s disease specific exercise.

“Exercises from physiotherapists, physiologists and speech pathologists help people with Parkinson’s to retrain coordination, balance, purposeful and fluent movement.

“We’re often trying to help build good muscle tone to help minimise abnormal movements associated with Parkinson’s disease.

“The latest research shows that challenging exercises that are fun and specific to the person’s interests have a higher level of compliance with improved results.”

Parkinson’s is a movement disorder.

Typical symptoms include slowness of movement, muscle rigidity, instability, tremor, depression and anxiety.

Neurones in the substantia nigra part of the brain are damaged or lost, which reduces dopamine, the brain chemical that assists in coordinating automatic movement.

There is no known cause for the development of Parkinson’s but factors such as ageing, genetics, infections and, even, medications, pesticides and toxins are thought to play a role.

According to Parkinson’s NSW, 2018 research shows as many as 218,000 Australians are living with the disease.

The most common age of diagnosis is 65 but 10% of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s are under 45.

Opened in late 2020, Neuro Alliance’s $3 million specialised rehabilitation centre, in Poynton Place, is the largest and most comprehensive in regional NSW. 

It is home to 40 allied health and medical professionals and other staff, a hydrotherapy pool, two neurorehabilitation gymnasiums, and multiple large therapy areas.

For more information about support for managing Parkinson’s disease, visit www.neuroalliance.com.au or www.parkinsonsnsw.org.au

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