Radio disc jockey in front of microphonee with physical therapist and patient in background.

My Interview with Physical & Occupational Therapists

In this podcast, I interview my physical and occupational therapists on questions that have come up in the Parkinson's disease community related to physical therapy (PT) or occupational therapy (OT).

Interview questions

  • What's the difference between PT and OT?
  • What symptoms can be "helped" or improved with PT/OT?
  • Are there PT exercises we can do at home to help manage certain symptoms?
  • Can occupational therapy help with worsening handwriting?
  • Are PT & OT covered by health insurance? How do I find out/make sure it's covered? (Costs are often a barrier for people to not go)

Along with answering the questions above and many more, we highlight the type of relationship with your therapist and the importance of it.

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Transcript excerpts:

What's the difference between PT and OT?

Erin Verdon, OT: So occupational therapy, what we focus on is your ability to get back to your everyday tasks. So if that's through recovery to improve what you're currently doing, or even maintaining as well. So we can educate you on compensatory strategies that might be useful for you. So you can get back to work, going through your daily routine or even leisure activities and things like that.

Catherine Wunder, PT: From a physical therapy standpoint, we focus more on mobility. So walking and moving around, getting in and out of your bed, standing up and down from a chair, that kind of basic functional mobility. And then higher-level balance tasks as well. And just reducing risk for falling.

What symptoms can be "helped" or improved with PT/OT?

Erin Verdon, OT: Occupational therapy, we could focus on tremor management and utilizing compensatory strategies. Utilizing adaptive equipment that might make it a little bit easier for you if you do have any tremors. Like weighted utensils, utilizing grounding strategies like weight-bearing, putting weight through your upper extremities to help with the tremors. But also helping you too, because your mental health affects your physical health and vice versa. So with that, also educating on anxiety management or stress management. Utilizing those nice, deep breaths. Breathing in through your nose, out through your mouth, while you're doing some of these exercises, as well as through your everyday life.

Georgia March, PT: From a PT standpoint, I think probably one of the main things that we focus on is walking. A lot of times with Parkinson's, you see that shuffling gait pattern where you're not picking up your feet enough, which can lead to tripping, falling. So focusing on taking nice big steps, swinging your arms and moving your trunk, things like that. And then we practice other stuff too. We can teach you how to get off the floor safely, because as much as we want to prevent falls, unfortunately, sometimes it does happen and you find yourself on the ground, and now you need to know what to do to get yourself up safely. The freezing too, that's another area that we can address and teach different techniques, different strategies, to help break up the freezing and get yourself going again.

Are there PT exercises we can do at home to help manage certain symptoms?

Catherine Wunder, PT: Definitely yes. And you should be doing exercises at home because coming to PT two or three times a week is great. But if you're doing nothing on the other four or five days of the week and you're just relying on that two times a week hour-long session, then you're not going to get as much benefit as carrying those exercises over to your everyday life and doing them daily. Once you go to therapy and you get yourself situated on a program, then your therapist will start to progressively give you some stuff to do at home and help build that program for you.

Georgia March, PT: Yes. The onus is on the therapist to construct this program, but then it also falls on the patient to make sure they're doing it.

Can occupational therapy help with worsening handwriting?

Erin Verdon, OT: Yes, occupational therapy, we can help with handwriting. We can focus on working on refining that fine motor coordination, as well as the dexterity you might have in your hands. But also educating you on different adaptive equipment or equipment that could be used to help handwriting, or even feeding yourself and things like that that take a lot of arm coordination to use. So I know during my sessions, I'll show different equipment, and it's up to the patient if they want to utilize the equipment or not.

Are PT & OT covered by health insurance? How do I find out/make sure it's covered?

Georgia March, PT: As far as insurance goes, everyone has different insurances. It's hard to give a blanket statement for that. But we have really excellent front desk staff who help us out with all of that and inform the patient.

Have you had experience with occupational and/or physical therapy?

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