Spaced physical therapy may support maintaining physical function in Parkinson’s disease

By Anna Shavers

A new study, published in the journal Parkinsonism & Related Disorders, by University of Florida neurologists and physical therapists evaluated the use of traditional burst physical therapy versus spaced physical therapy (PT) in a randomized clinical trial of 30 persons with Parkinson’s disease.

“Most practitioners recognize the importance of physical therapy for persons with Parkinson’s disease but how to best deliver PT is unknown,” said lead author Kelvin Au, M.D., a former movement disorders fellow at the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health and a clinical assistant professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

The study included a total of twelve PT sessions with burst participants completing two sessions every week for six weeks and spaced participants completing one session every two weeks for six months. After six months, all participants completed balance tests, Parkinson’s examination and questionnaires including the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test.

“The most important observation from our study was that spaced PT showed stability in the timed up and go scores at 6 months. Participants who received the burst physical therapy did not maintain timed up and go scores at 6 months following completion of therapy at 6 weeks,” said Au.

The authors stated that the study provides preliminary evidence that spacing out PT may be more beneficial for maintaining physical function for persons with Parkinson’s disease than the traditional burst approach frequently used in other neurological disorders.

Future studies with more participants will be necessary to better understand the optimal PT schedule for Parkinson’s disease. An optimal schedule will likely lead to a more informed healthcare system and a paradigm shift in the payor system.

Read the paper in the journal Parkinsonism & Related Disorders.