Expert Physical Therapist – Fall Prevention, etc. (Highlights of 48-min Video)

This email is of general interest to those in our Brain Support Network.

Though this talk by a physical therapist was delivered at a CurePSP family conference in Canada (mostly PSP and CBD families in the audience), all of the disorders in our BSN group will find value in this talk.

The speaker is Joellyn Fox, DPT, a movement disorder specialist physical therapist at the University of Pennsylvania.  Her focus is offering practical tips to preventing falls and keeping moving to “improve everyday life.”

You can find the December 2015 talk by Joellyn Fox, DPT, on YouTube here:  (48 minutes)

BSN volunteer extraordinaire Denise Dagan recently watched the video and wrote down a few highlights, which are below.  Denise encourages everyone to watch the video, however!



Methods to Improve Everyday Life
By Joellyn Fox, DPT, University of Pennsylvania
CurePSP Family Conference, Canada
December 4, 2015
48 minutes

Highlights by Brain Support Network volunteer Denise Dagan

Ms. Fox prefers to begin working with people the moment they realize there has been a change in their movement.  She calls this ‘prehabilitation.’  Clever, but her point is that until there’s a problem we don’t think about how we move.  Once there is a problem, she believes it is best to start motor learning and conscious movement training right away to prevent loss of balance and falls.

With Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonisms there develops a motor-sensory disconnect.  To compensate for that, one needs to:
– Think before moving
– Move with larger movements
– Finish one part of a task before moving on to the next by breaking tasks into parts.

For example; sitting requires approaching a chair, turning, and lowering oneself onto the seat.  When each part is done with thought, the risk of falling, sitting on the arm, or dropping onto the seat is minimized.

People with Parkinson’s often feel as if their ability to move has been lost, particularly when they suffer from freezing.  In actuality, it is a problem of activating the motion due to motor-sensory disconnect.  Compensating for this is primarily done through the use of cues to activate movement and improve gait quality.

Cueing the activation of movement can be internal (mental reminders, imagination) or external (verbal, visual or audible reminders, signs around the house, etc.).  Examples include:

– tape on the floor: to line up in front of a chair or bed before sitting, to step over going through doorways, etc.

– laser lines: light is emitted from the bottom of a cane (e.g. UStep laser cane) to break freezing and increase stride

– metronomes: help overcome freezing and maintain a regular pace or prevent slowing of stride.

Free apps are available for smartphones, even blue tooth so others can’t hear them.

– imagination: pretending to step over or on something that isn’t there (like step on a bug or over a threshold).

– tactile stimulation: tapping on the foot that’s frozen can often get it moving, or tapping on the side that needs to take the next step.

– RAS (Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation): People tend to step in time with music, whether they have Parkinson’s disease, or not.

Ms. Fox’s FOG (Freezing of Gait) Strategies start with the 4 S’s:
– Stop
– Stand tall
– Shift weight
– Step big

The key is to unweight one foot and make the next step a big one.  The cue in a physical therapy appointment is her saying, “Stop,” but remembering to say it to yourself is an internal cue, which doesn’t work for most people.  A solution at home can be STOP signs around the house where freezing often occurs (an external cue).

The rest of her FOG Strategies include:

For areas in the home (doorways, around furniture, etc.)
– Destination Estimation: estimate the number of steps to a destination and try to keep to just that many.  Works well for elevators because there is some anxiety over beating the door close.  Estimate 4 steps, take them big, and you’re in!
– Look through a doorway to the wall ahead.
– Stop, and step big over the threshold

For crowds (elevators, escalators, church, concerts, trains & buses)
– Allow others to go ahead of you to blaze a trail, and follow in their wake
– Move to the side of the crowd or against a wall and follow around the edge of the group

Turns require learning new techniques because you’re probably used to leading with your shoulders, but that causes legs to cross and may result in falling.  Instead, Ms. Fox offers specific techniques for maintaining balance while turning in both open areas and tight spaces.

Ms. Fox also spoke about retropulsion, backward balance loss with reduced step size and increased cadence, and festination, forward gait with increased step cadence, a.k.a. “runaway train.’  She listed several specific triggers and preventions for both.

Ms. Fox made the point that moving doesn’t have to be boring or tedious, even during your physical therapy appointment.  You want a therapist with that same attitude.  Her last slide has several research based movement options shown to benefit people with Parkinson’s disease.  Pick some and keep moving!

Lastly, Ms. Fox offers some specific tips for caregivers to to help steady someone with Parkinson’s disease while walking together, as well as minimize quarrels about nagging over posture or gait.

To find a physical therapist close to you, start with these resources:

– Look for therapists with experience working w/people who have Parkinson’s disease & parkinsonisms

– National Parkinson Foundation : Centers of Excellence

– LSVT BIG Certification (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment, limb movement training)

– Parkinson’s Wellness and Recovery