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Balance | Neurological Recovery

How Parkinson’s Disease Impacts Movement Amplitude and the Role of Physical Therapy

September 8th, 2023 | 4 min. read

How Parkinson’s Disease Impacts Movement Amplitude and the Role of Physical Therapy
Max Smith

Max Smith

Licensed Physical Therapist, PT, DPT // Dry Needling Certified // EW Motion Therapy Trussville

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Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder affecting millions worldwide. While it is commonly associated with tremors and rigidity, another aspect of the condition that often goes overlooked but profoundly impacts a person’s quality of life is the amplitude of movement. Physical therapists are experts in human movement and can be great professionals to help you move better - we consider it a privilege to do this for our clients at EW Motion Therapy. But even if you decide that our physical therapy is not suitable for you, you can still read on as we explore the amplitude of movement, how Parkinson's disease affects it, and how physical therapy can play a crucial role in improving the lives of those with this condition. 


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What is the amplitude of movement?

The amplitude of movement refers to the range or extent of motion in a joint or body part. Think of it as the distance an arm can move when reaching for an object or the range of motion in your legs when walking. In simpler terms, it's how big or small our movements are. For example, when we take a step, the amplitude of movement is the distance our foot travels. 


Parkinson's disease and amplitude of movement

Parkinson's disease primarily affects the brain's ability to produce dopamine, which regulates movement. As a result, people with Parkinson's experience a range of motor symptoms, including tremors, muscle stiffness, and slowness of movement, all impacting their amplitude of movement.


  1. Muscle rigidity: One of the hallmark symptoms of Parkinson's disease is muscle rigidity. When muscles become excessively tense and rigid, it limits natural flexibility and joint movement. This rigidity can make it challenging for individuals to initiate and complete actions with their full range of motion.
  2. Bradykinesia: Bradykinesia is a common feature of Parkinson's disease characterized by significantly slowing voluntary movements. This slowness affects the speed at which a person can perform everyday activities, from walking to reaching for objects. Reduced speed often leads to diminished amplitude of movement.
  3. Tremors: While tremors are often the most visible symptom of Parkinson's, they also impact movement amplitude. Tremors can make it difficult to maintain precise control over a limb, affecting both the initiation and execution of movements.
  4. Freezing of gait: Some individuals with Parkinson's experience freezing of gait, where their feet seem to stick to the ground, preventing them from taking steps. This sudden halt in movement can significantly limit amplitude, particularly during walking, and can increase fall risk as a result.
  5. Postural instability: Parkinson's can also cause postural instability, making it challenging for individuals to maintain balance. This instability can lead to smaller, more cautious movements to avoid falling, reducing amplitude.


Reduced amplitude of movement in Parkinson's disease can profoundly impact daily life. It affects a person's ability to perform routine activities, making even simple tasks like dressing, eating, or getting out of a chair challenging. Moreover, it can lead to social withdrawal and decreased overall quality of life as individuals become increasingly dependent on others for assistance.


The role of physical therapy

Physical therapy is essential to comprehensive care for individuals with Parkinson's disease. It focuses on improving physical function and maximizing the potential for movement, utilizing individualized exercises and educational programs like LSVT Big. Here's how physical therapy can help address the challenges related to amplitude of movement:


  1. Range of motion exercises: Physical therapists design exercises to increase joint flexibility and range of motion. These exercises can help combat muscle rigidity and help move their limbs more freely.
  2. Strength training: Building muscle strength is crucial for people with Parkinson's disease. Stronger muscles can help reduce fall risk and improve overall mobility.
  3. Balance training: Addressing postural instability is a crucial goal of physical therapy. Through balance exercises and training, individuals can regain confidence in their movements and increase the amplitude of their steps and motions.
  4. Gait training: Physical therapists work with individuals to improve their walking patterns, reduce freezing of gait episodes, and encourage smoother and extended strides.
  5. Functional training: Physical therapy focuses on real-life activities, such as reaching for objects, getting in and out of chairs, and dressing. These practical tasks are broken down and practiced to improve amplitude and independence in daily life.
  6. Home exercise programs: Physical therapists often provide individuals with personalized home exercise programs to maintain progress between therapy sessions. Consistent practice is vital to improving amplitude and mobility.
  7. Education and support: Beyond exercises, physical therapists provide education on Parkinson's disease management and offer emotional support. This holistic approach helps individuals better cope with their condition and maintain an active lifestyle.


Parkinson's disease is a complex neurological condition that affects more than just motor control. It can significantly impact movement amplitude, making everyday activities a challenge. However, with the help of physical therapy, individuals with Parkinson's can work towards maintaining their independence and improving their overall quality of life.


If you or a loved one is living with Parkinson's disease, don't underestimate the importance of physical therapy in managing the condition. Working with a skilled physical therapist can make a world of difference in increasing the range and extent of your movements, helping you maintain your mobility and enjoy a fulfilling life despite the challenges posed by Parkinson's disease. Our ultimate goal for all our clients at EW Motion Therapy is to help them return to the activities they love, whether they want to go on walks around the neighborhood or play with their grandkids. If you’re curious about what else physical therapy can do for you, click the button below to download our answers to 20 frequently asked questions.


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