July 13, 2007 / 7:18 PM / 12 years ago

Exercises may curb falls by Parkinson's patients

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - For some people with Parkinson’s disease, a personalized home program of exercises and instructions appears to help prevent them from falling, UK researchers have shown.

Dr. Ann Ashburn, of the University of Southampton, and colleagues note in their report that falls are common for people with Parkinson’s disease, especially the more elderly patients.

To see if exercises might help reduce the occurrence of falls, the researchers randomly assigned 142 Parkinson’s patients to usual care or a home-based exercise and strategy program. All of the participants had had more than one fall in the previous year.

The exercise group received weekly home visits by a physiotherapist for 6 weeks, an exercise program was developed and goals were defined. The participants then continued on their own and received telephone follow-up calls monthly.

The researchers report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry that “there was a consistent trend towards lower fall rates in the exercise group at both 8 weeks and 6 months and lower rates of injurious falls needing medical attention at 6 months.”

There were also significantly lower rates of near falling in the exercise group. These patients also showed improved function and quality of life at 6 months.

Dr. Albert Albanese, of the University of Milan, Italy, and author of an accompanying editorial, told Reuters Health that “balance impairment and falls are among the chief complaints in late stage Parkinson’s disease and usually do not improve with current anti-parkinsonian medication or with deep brain stimulation.”

He said, “Structured home exercise programs may be a promising approach to train Parkinson’s disease patients to prevent falling.”

SOURCE: Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, July 2007.

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