Exercising to Music Could Reduce Falls in Parkinson’s

A recent study in the US publication Clinical Rehabilitation has provided further evidence that training people with Parkinson’s disease to walk to music can dramatically reduce the risk of falls. A programme which uses a technique known as “rhythmic auditory stimulation” (RAS) and involves individuals with Parkinson’s walking for 30 minutes each day to pieces of music with embedded metronome beats has shown significant improvements in the mobility, stride length and gait of participants, all of which contributed to a reduction in the frequency of falls.

Individuals with Parkinson’s are at particularly high risk of falls and with over 120,000 people in the UK currently diagnosed with this degenerative neurological condition, any new approach to falls reduction should be warmly welcomed. Although further research is needed before RAS can have wider practical application, we’ve provided our own useful falls prevention tips below that you can put into practice today.

Parkinson’s disease is typically characterised by akinesia, an absence of or reduction in the functionality of movements. Symptoms of akinesia can include

  • Difficulty initiating movement
  • Increased fatigue
  • Impaired gait/posture
  • Freezing during movement
  • Difficulty in sequencing movements
  • Slowness and reduction in the control of movements

Ensuring your staff are aware of these problems and the steps they can take to reduce their impact can dramatically reduce the risk of falls amongst your service users with Parkinson’s.

Understanding These 4 Common Problems Will Help You Reduce the Falls Risks in Service Users with Parkinson’s

  1. Freezing: “Freezing” or being unable to initiate movement when walking is commonplace in Parkinson’s but it’s not commonly known that this disabling symptom is often caused by anxiety. For this reason, it’s important care staff don’t rush a person with Parkinson’s when mobilising. It’s also helpful to reduce clutter or items which can cause visual distraction and if the person struggles to initiate movement or freezes mid-movement, verbal cues such as rhythmic counting can help.
  • Poor Vision:Parkinson’s can often lead to a deterioration in ocular motor control which can case blurred or double vision, increasing the risk of falls. Aim to ensure rooms are well lit, that the correct glasses are worn and try to avoid floor surfaces which are reflective or hard to perceive. Arranging regular eye tests to exclude other visual problems can also be helpful.
  • Postural Hypotension:Research suggests that almost half of people with Parkinson’s suffer with postural hypotension which can lead to dizziness, fainting and falls. Train your staff to understand that service users with Parkinson’s may suffer these symptoms, particularly when standing suddenly, or in warm weather or after a hot bath to help them to predict when there may an increased risk of falls and take steps to prevent them.
  • Inadequate Footcare:A lack of adequate footcare can significantly increase the risk of falls as factors such as overgrown toenails, calluses and corns affect gait and balance. Aim to ensure that feet are kept in good condition by checking them daily and arranging treatment of any issues by a suitably qualified podiatrist.