Many people have this idea in their head that physical therapy sessions are just a bunch of controlled exercises performed alongside a physical therapist, but that’s not the case. We work closely with patients to help develop a therapy routine that strengthens and protects key structures, but we also strive to make the activities engaging, because we know that when therapy feels less like work, patients are more likely to follow through with their sessions.
With that goal in mind, we recently came across an interesting study in regards to how physical therapists are working to help patients with Parkinson’s disease. More patients with this cognitive disorder are being asked to pick up a paddle and play some ping pong in order to help with the effects of the condition.
Ping Pong Physical Therapy
A recent study presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 72nd Annual Meeting found that individuals with Parkinson’s who participated in a ping pong exercise program once a week for six months showed improvement in their symptoms. Parkinson’s can be a difficult condition for a person to deal with, as progression of the disease can lead to symptoms like limb stiffness, delayed or slowed movements, posture impairments, tremors, walking problems and balance issues, among other things. However, by partaking in physical therapy that helps to strengthen muscle groups that control these motions and improve certain functions, patients may be able to slow the condition’s progression. Ping pong, which involves controlled movements, balance and hand-eye coordination may be a great therapy to help combat Parkinson’s symptoms.
“Ping pong, which is also called table tennis, is a form of aerobic exercise that has been shown in the general population to improve hand-eye coordination, sharpen reflexes and stimulate the brain,” said study author Ken-ichi Inoue, M.D., of Fukuoka University in Japan. “We wanted to examine if people with Parkinson’s disease would see similar benefits that may in turn reduce some of their symptoms.”
Although the study was relatively small in size, it produced some encouraging results. 12 patients with an average age of 73 with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease were recruited for the study. They were examined at the study’s outset to develop a symptom baseline, and they were also evaluated in the middle and at the end of the study. Each patient participated in one weekly session of ping pong for a period of six months. Each session was five hours long and involved warm ups, stretches and table tennis exercises with instruction from an experienced player.
After evaluating participants during and after the program, researchers uncovered some interesting results. Study participants showed significant improvements in areas like speech, handwriting and getting dressed. They also found that at the beginning of the study, it took patients an average of two attempts to get out of bed. By the end of the study, the average had dropped to just one attempt to get out of bed. This may not seem like a huge improvement, but it can’t be understated how important it is to a person’s overall quality of life to be able to reach their goal on the first attempt.
Other improvements noted in the study include positive changes in:
- Facial expression and control
- Tremor severity
- Limb movement speed
- Neck range of motion
The study wasn’t perfect, as researchers noted that one participant fell during a session, and another developed a backache. However, from an overall scale, researchers were pleased with the findings.
“While the study is small, the results are encouraging because they show ping pong, a relatively inexpensive form of therapy, may improve some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease,” said Inoue. “A much larger study is now being planned to confirm these findings.”
It’s great to see patients finding fun and interactive ways to reduce physical symptoms, and it speaks to a larger goal we have for our patients at OrthoRehab Specialists. If we can find a way to get you engaged with your therapy, we’re confident you’ll soon see positive results. So if you are considering therapy or aren’t having success with your current program, reach out to our clinic to see how we can help you. Contact OrthoRehab Specialists today for more information.