• The Media Is Reporting That PT Is Ineffective For Parkinson’s – What’s The Truth?

    February 16, 2016 | Theresa Najjar, PT, DPT, MS
  • (Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes) 

  • What's up with those "PT is Ineffective" headlines? In this newsletter, you're about to discover all you need to know about those recent dramatic headlines claiming physical therapy is an ineffective treatment approach for people with Parkinson's disease. Here is one of the articles in question: Physical Therapy Does Not Help Patient's With Parkinson's Disease - Study

    Fortunately, there's a lot MORE to the story. Here is a link to the study's abstract if you'd like to check it out yourself: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26785394

    First, the study in question (Clarke CE et al 2016) used a very low dose of physical therapy. The participants had an average of 4 physical therapy sessions total (Clarke CE et al 2016). Actually, half of all people in the study received fewer than 4 sessions (Clarke CE et al 2016)! As my clients will attest to, 4 sessions is not enough to experience the intensive and skill specific training needed to start feeling BIG changes in function.

    Second, the study's results may have been affected by the range of disease severity included in the study (Clarke CE et al 2016). The conclusion drawn by the study applied to people with mild to moderate Parkinson's disease and yet about 1/3 of the patients were in more severe stages than mild to moderate (Clarke CE et al 2016). This would make it very difficult to accurately show progress in several study participants.

    Third, the study was performed in England (Clarke CE et al 2016) where standard of physical therapy care for people with Parkinson's is different than in the US. In England, it is very common for people with Parkinson's disease to receive only a few physical therapy sessions where US physical therapists often prescribe a higher frequency of physical therapy. According to Terri Ellis, PT, PhD, NCS, this study says a lot more about physical therapy effectiveness for low doses England than the higher doses of physical therapy in the US (PT InMotion News, 1/27/2016).

    For an excellent overview of how the dramatic headlines can lead to incorrect conclusions, please read this excellent article from PT In Motion News: Headlines Overstate Study's Conclusions

    Until next time,




    Clarke CE et al. Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy vs No Therapy in Mild to Moderate Parkinson Disease: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Neurol. 2016;73(3):291-9.

    Derla, K. Physical Therapy Does Not Help Patients With Parkinson's Disease: Study. Tech Times. Published January 21, 2016 9:19 am EST. Accessed at: http://www.techtimes.com/articles/126421/20160121/physical-therapy-does-not-help-patients-with-parkinsons-disease-study.htm Accessed on: 2/5/2016

    PT InMotionNews. "Physical Therapy 'Ineffective' for PD? Headlines Overstate Study's Conclusions." Published 1/27/2016. Accessed at: http://www.apta.org/PTinMotion/News/2016/01/27/PTPDIneffective/?utm_source=Informz&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Informz+email+link Accessed on: 2/5/2016