Are occupational therapy and physiotherapy effective in Parkinson's?

We believe that occupational therapy and physiotherapy can help to improve Parkinson's symptoms, despite new research this week that suggests otherwise.

The new research is published in JAMA Neurology* and suggests that occupational and physiotherapy aren't effective for people with Parkinson's.

The study included 762 people with Parkinson's at 38 sites across the UK.

Participants received either four sessions of occupational and physiotherapy over eight weeks, or no therapy.

The researchers followed up with all participants three months after the start of the study.

They found that there were no beneficial effects of the therapy on daily activities or quality of life.

Delivery of therapy must continue

Our Clinical Director Professor David Burn commented on the study:

"From the limited data in this study it would be misleading to say physiotherapy and occupational therapy don't improve the lives of people with Parkinson's.

"The study looked at only one specific programme run over just a few weeks.

"There is considerable evidence that these therapies help people with Parkinson's, improving their symptoms, and making them healthier.

"Last year a study found significant improvement following up to 16 hours of occupational therapy over 10 weeks.

"In comparison, the current study involved just four hours of therapy over eight weeks.

"While we do need more investigation into the best way to deliver these therapies so people with Parkinson's can get maximum benefit, there is no question that they must continue to be provided to the 127,000** people affected across the UK."

*Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy vs No Therapy in Mild to Moderate Parkinson's disease. Clarke, C E, et al. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 19 January 2016.

**This article mentions statistics which have since been updated. 2018 data shows that the number of people diagnosed with Parkinson's in the UK is around 145,000.