Advancing Research

New Study Makes the Case for Parkinson’s-Specific Physiotherapy

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Parkinson’s disease (PD) specialists have long debated the potential value of Parkinson’s-specific physical therapy. All great medical debates are usually settled by two factors: time and data. In this month’s What’s Hot, we review a paper recently published in Lancet Neurology (Ypinga 2018) that provides insight and data for whether people with Parkinson’s should begin or continue specialized physiotherapy.

Ypinga and colleagues performed an observational study which analyzed data from a Dutch health insurance claims database. Only people with Parkinson’s who received physiotherapy were included. The researchers reviewed patients with three years of follow-up and divided the groups into those receiving specialized Parkinson’s physiotherapy or those receiving usual physiotherapy.

Performance and results were compared. Researchers were interested in Parkinson’s-related health issues, such as being admitted to a hospital because of a fracture, orthopedic injury or pneumonia.  

The study had 2,129 people with Parkinson’s in the specialized physiotherapy group and 2,252 people with Parkinson’s who received usual physiotherapy. Results showed that 17 percent of the specialized physiotherapy group had complications, compared to 21 percent in the regular physical therapy group. Interestingly, the specialized therapy group required fewer treatment sessions and had cheaper direct and total healthcare costs.

Should every person with Parkinson’s seek a Parkinson’s-specific specialized physical therapist?  Not so fast. This study was conducted in the Netherlands where NetPD has created an integrated network of well-trained and highly Parkinson’s disease educated physical therapists. The therapists within this Dutch network share a similar philosophy and access to a common educational curriculum. We cannot therefore generalize the findings to every specialized Parkinson’s physical therapist in the world.

We can however follow Ypinga and colleagues and carefully study the potential benefit for any proposed Parkinson’s-specific specialized physical therapy. Data and time will ultimately tell us what is or is not effective — and whether there is an associated cost savings. Though this study found no difference in mortality among the two groups, the data was convincing for those living in the Netherlands to seek a specialized physiotherapist.


Michael S. Okun, National Medical Advisor

1.Ypinga JHL, de Vries NM, Boonen LHHM, Koolman X, Munneke M, Zwinderman AH, Bloem BR. Effectiveness and costs of specialised physiotherapy given via ParkinsonNet: a retrospective analysis of medical claims data. Lancet Neurol. 2017 Dec 12. pii: S1474-4422(17)30406-4. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(17)30406-4. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29246470.

2.Okun MS. Is Specialized Physiotherapy for Parkinson’s Disease Better? NEJM Journal Watch, 2018.

You can find out more about our National Medical Director Dr. Michael S. Okun by visiting the Center of Excellence University of Florida Health Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration. Dr. Okun is also the author of the Amazon #1 Parkinson's Best Seller 10 Secrets to a Happier Life.

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