Physical Therapy

Theresa Najjar, PT, MSPT, NCS

               Physical Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease: What to Expect

Welcome to Physical Therapy! Your doctor has referred you to physical therapy so that you can improve your mobility and quality of life. Here are some important things to know.  

                              Who are Physical Therapists?

Physical Therapists are licensed health care professionals who have received a degree from an accredited PT program and passed the state licensing examination. They have in-depth knowledge about the human body. They are trusted health care professionals with extensive clinical experience who perform examinations and treatments in order to improve your level of activity and community participation.  To learn more about Theresa Najjar, our physical therapist, click here.

                             What is the goal of treatment?

The goal of physical therapy is to improve or restore function and help people return to the activities they love doing to the best of their ability. Remember, there may be limitations to overall recovery, but each person has the opportunity to be the best they can be.

What do I wear to Physical Therapy?

Wearing comfortable clothing that can move freely will allow you to get the most out of your physical therapy session. Examples include sweat pants, yoga pants, and t-shirts. Comfortable and supportive footwear is a must. Examples include sneakers or tennis shoes. Please do not wear sandals or shoes with a heel (unless medically necessary).

How long will I be coming to Physical Therapy?

Physical Therapy is performed as an “episode of care” meaning you work with your physical therapist for a specific time frame and then continue to work on your own afterward via your home exercise program and community programs. Your physical therapist will work with you to set goals for treatment and a time frame to achieve those goals. Treatment frequency and duration is unique for every person and is adjusted based on your physical activity tolerance, level of mobility, willingness to participate, and your goals.

What should I expect when I attend Physical Therapy?

Expect to work! Remember, physical therapy is not something that is done to you. Instead, it is something you do. Keep in mind that your physical therapist will design your treatment program based on your initial examination and the goals that you establish together. You may receive instruction in exercise, stretching, body mechanics, and posture. Your physical therapist may also make recommendations on assistive devices and adaptive equipment. And, most importantly, expect a home exercise program!

Why do I need a home exercise program?

  • In order to make changes in the brain, it takes thousands of repetitions of doing a task. It is very important that you practice tasks at home so that you are getting the repetition you need to improve. Remember, USE IT OR LOSE IT and REPETITION MATTERS.
  • To get better at a task, you have to practice it over and over. Remember, USE IT AND IMPROVE IT.
  • Practicing in a variety of settings adds meaningfulness to a task. If a task is meaningful, it is more likely to make brain changes.
  • Practicing in a setting that you live in makes the task specific to your needs, which helps lead to changes in the brain.
  • Sometimes people with PD have difficulty moving and therefore are not as active as they used to be. Doing exercises at home is important for you to improve your endurance, strength, and cardiovascular system.

Will I have to exercise?

Yes! Everyone should exercise, no matter their mobility level! You and your physical therapist will discuss community exercise recommendations and, if needed, exercise modifications. Your home exercise program is a good place to start, but it is also important to stay active throughout your day. Some ways to increase your activity level include:

  • Get out of bed and stay up all day. Only take a short nap when necessary.
  • Participate in household chores
  • Do some gardening
  • Go for a walk
  • Go to a gym or senior center and use the exercise equipment
  • Join an exercise class or an adaptive physical education class
  • Do an exercise video
  • Find a fun new activity or return to familiar activities that you enjoy


  1. Kleim JA, Jones TA. Principles of experience-dependent neural plasticity: Implications for rehabilitation after brain damage. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. 2008;51:S225-S239.
  2. Improve Mobility & Motion. Move Forward website. Available at http://www.moveforwardpt.com/WhyTherapy/Mobility.aspx. Accessed August 17,2012
  3. Preparing for Your Visit with a Physical Therapist. Move Forward website. Available at http://www.moveforwardpt.com/Resources/Prepare.aspx. Accessed on August 17, 2012.
  4. Hirsch MA, Farley BG. Exercise and neuroplasticity in persons living with Parkinson’s disease. Eru J Phys Rehabil Med. 2009;45(2):215-29.
  5. Schenkman M, Deutsch JE, Gill-Body KM. An integrated framework for decision making in neurologic physical therapist practice. Phys Ther. 2006;86(12):1681-702.
675 Almanor Avenue | Sunnyvale, CA 94085
408.734.2800 main | 408.734.8455 fax (Main) | 408.734.9208 fax (Clinic Secure)