Make sure that you stay up to date on the latest medical trends and treatments in the Physical Therapy realm! This medical blog is here to inform and educate our patients in their rehabilitation journey for a brighter future.

Why Find a Physical Therapist for Parkinson’s?


Physical therapists can be helpful at all stages of Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Movement impairments in the initial stages of the disease are not always obvious. By not engaging a physical therapist with a neurological specialization as part of their medical team, people with Parkinson’s often miss the window of opportunity to address these impairments early. Talk to your doctor about getting a baseline physical therapy evaluation and then continue with periodic re-evaluations.

According to the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project, the largest clinical study of Parkinson’s disease through our Centers of Excellence network, increasing physical activity to at least 2.5 hours a week can slow decline in quality of life. The Parkinson’s Foundation has identified specific care approaches associated with better outcomes across patients who seek expert care at our designated care centers. Among others, best practices include early referral to physical therapy and encouragement of exercise as part of treatment.

A physical therapist is uniquely trained to design an exercise routine that targets specific motor impairments. Physical therapists also have an opportunity to provide frequent, direct feedback to help make you aware of how to exercise most effectively and safely.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.

In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, your face may show little or no expression. Your arms may not swing when you walk. Your speech may become soft or slurred. Parkinson’s disease symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time.

Although Parkinson’s disease cannot be cured, medications and therapy can significantly improve your symptoms. Occasionally, your doctor may suggest surgery to regulate certain regions of your brain and improve your symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease signs and symptoms can be different for each patient. Early signs may be mild and go unnoticed. Symptoms often begin on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.

Parkinson’s signs and symptoms may include:

  • A tremor, or shaking- usually begins in a limb, often in your hand or fingers. You may rub your thumb and forefinger back and forth, known as a pill-rolling tremor. Your hand may tremble when it’s at rest.
  • Slowed movement (bradykinesia)- Over time, Parkinson’s disease may slow your movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your steps may become shorter when you walk. It may be difficult to get out of a chair. You may drag your feet as you try to walk.
  • Rigid muscles- Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of your body. The stiff muscles can be painful and limit your range of motion.
  • Impaired posture and balance- Your posture may become stooped, or you may have balance problems as a result of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Loss of automatic movements- You may have a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including blinking, smiling, or swinging your arms when you walk.
  • Speech changes- You may speak softly, quickly, slur or hesitate before talking. Your speech may be more of a monotone rather than have the usual inflections.
  • Writing changes- It may become hard to write, and your writing may appear small.

Risk factors for Parkinson’s disease include:

  • Young adults rarely experience Parkinson’s disease. It ordinarily begins in middle or late life, and the risk increases with age. People usually develop the disease around age 60 or older.
  • Having a close relative with Parkinson’s disease increases the chances that you’ll develop the disease. However, your risks are still small unless you have many relatives in your family with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than are women.
  • Exposure to toxins. Ongoing exposure to herbicides and pesticides may slightly increase your risk of Parkinson’s disease.


No specific test exists to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Your doctor trained in nervous system conditions (neurologist) will diagnose Parkinson’s disease based on your medical history, a review of your signs and symptoms, and a neurological and physical examination. Sometimes it takes time to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Doctors may recommend regular follow-up appointments with neurologists trained in movement disorders to evaluate your condition and symptoms over time and diagnose Parkinson’s disease.

A Physical Therapist can provide:

  • Education and self-management advice.
  • Exercise routines that have been associated with improvements (or slower declines) in mobility, quality of life, and disease severity.
  • Answers to questions about the type, intensity, frequency, or duration of exercise that is best for you.
  • Ways to maintain safety when exercising.
  • Help with:
    1. Normal physical activity routine
    2. Walking: slowness, small steps, or freezing (feeling glued to the floor or difficulty getting started)
    3. Balance or stability
    4. Posture
    5. Pain
    6. Moving around the house (getting up from a chair, moving around in bed)
    7. Getting around (in/out of a car or bus, elevators, stairs, and uneven ground)
  • Addressing fear of falling, have fallen, or are worried about your safety.
  • Other health problems that affect mobility, including joint or muscle pain from arthritis, problems with endurance due to a heart or lung condition, a broken bone or surgery

Setting Movement Goals with your Therapist

Every patient works with their physical therapist to set individualized movement goals. Physical therapists can help you optimize your exercise routine based on the latest research, re-learn challenging tasks, or stay safe and independent in the home. Some of the most common movement goals for people with Parkinson’s include:

  • Learning about exercises
  • Improving walking, balance, or posture
  • Addressing fall risk
  • Treating pain

Before your first visit, think about your movement goals and write down your problems and questions. This will help you to organize your thoughts. You can do this for future visits, too.

To learn even more about Parkinson’s Disease, check out this video created by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through an aggressively funded research agenda and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today. If you’d like to donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation you can do so below. 

Schedule an appointment with Tara Today

Tara Porter, MPT

Leechburg Facility

Kiski Park Plaza
1001 South Leechburg Hill Road
Leechburg, PA 15656

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Myofascial Decompression Techniques aka Cup Therapy

Myofascial Decompression or Cupping being performed on the back of a patient

What is Cup Therapy?

Myofascial decompression or cupping is a therapy that helps treat musculoskeletal disorders by using suction to create negative pressure underneath the cup. Originally, fire was used to create the suction, but more recently a simple pump is used. The negative pressure helps to decompress the area by lifting the skin and the layer of tissue underneath the skin, the fascia, up into the cup. This creates space for the underlying tight muscle to lay down and relax. Cupping also helps bring blood flow to the area in need. Blood carries important nutrients to the tissue which help with healing.

Questions about CUpping?

Myofascial Decompression or Cupping is used as an adjunct to other physical therapy treatments to decrease pain and improve mobility. Cupping Therapy is an increasingly popular so we asked Lower Burrell Facility Director Will Jones, DPT, some commonly asked questions about cupping. Below are his responses.

Q: Can you describe the cupping process to me?

A: At its core, cupping is a massage in reverse. Instead adding pressure to muscles and connective tissue (as in massage), cupping creates expansion and space in the tissues and promotes blood flow. For most cupping sessions, the recipient is positioned lying face down to address muscles on the back, neck or shoulders. Once the patient is lying in a comfortable position, the cup is placed on the skin and a suction gun draws out the air from the cup creating a vacuum inside the cup. The result is skin, and the muscles underneath being pulled upward for a bit of a stretch. 

Each cup placement is left for a few seconds to a couple of minutes, which is all that is required to get a beneficial effect. In a typical cupping session, we do two to five placements on different muscles, depending on the size of the affected area. For most people, the experience of cupping is rather neutral – meaning it does not feel especially good or bad while the cups are on the skin. The sensation is more of a pulling or grabbing that becomes less intense the longer the cup is left in place.

Q: What is really happening to create relief?

A: My explanation would be that the vacuum of the cups gives the muscles/connective tissue a stretch and expansion. As the local muscles are stretched and given more space, blood is pumped through the muscles and circulated through the local area. This means that cupping is addressing the two main causes of muscle tension & pain. One is poor blood flow, and the other is shortened or contracted muscles and connective tissue. Relief is found in the focusing on those two things along with the right physical therapy.

Q: What types of people can benefit from cupping therapy?

A: Cupping can be used on things like myofascial restrictions, and tight muscles in the upper back, shoulders, and neck. The classic presentation would be the sensation of tight “knots” in the shoulders where the tension can be radiating up to the neck. These upper body areas are especially amenable to cupping therapy because the muscles involved are smaller and close to the surface of the body.  Cupping can also be helpful for low back pain as there are often restrictions of the soft tissue in this area due to prolonged sitting.

Q: What should I expect after treatment?

A: It is common for patients to experience some skin marking with this treatment. This can range from red rings that quickly disappear or some mild bruising due to the pulling of blood to the surface. Treatments are typically painless, and the discoloration usually disappears after a few days.

Take a minute to watch this piece on Cupping as seen on Good Morning America!

Schedule an Appointment with one of our experienced therapists today

Lower Burrell

3160 Kipp Avenue Lower Burrell, PA 15068

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Neurological Rehabilitation At WESTARM


In people of any age, injuries and illnesses can weaken our main control and regulatory system in our body – the nervous system. An impaired nervous system, in turn, can negatively affect one’s mobility and ability to perform simple daily tasks. Research shows that the affected patient may greatly benefit from physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy to address new impairments or to optimize function of ongoing strength or balance issues. Working with a therapist who is familiar with neurological impairments will provide a higher return to function. It may be a good strategy to have a consultation of evaluation from a Physical Therapist every year or two to ensure you are functioning at your best – even years after a neurological event or diagnosis.

What is Neurological Rehabilitation?

Neurological rehabilitation is a specialized therapy that is aimed at using evidence-based treatment and research to help restore functionality.

Neurological rehabilitation’s main goal is to help individuals overcome physical limitations from injuries and illnesses affecting the nervous system. Whether someone has sustained a spinal injury from an accident or received a diagnosis of a neurological condition such as Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis, neurological rehabilitation can help them retain and regain independence by reducing symptoms and improving the ability to function. These personalized programs can include exercises aimed at increasing mobility and preventing atrophy, as well as activities to improve focus and memory.

Our physical, occupational, and speech therapists see patients with a wide range of diagnoses and injuries, including:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Brain tumors
  • Brain injury
  • Stroke
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Balance problems
  • History of falls
  • Vestibular disorders
  • Other neurological disorders


Each patient is evaluated to determine individual needs and treatment. Our team strives to maximize a person’s return to functional independence and an active and healthy lifestyle post-neurological injury.

Meet our Neurological Rehabilitation Team

WESTARM Physical Therapy’s neurological rehabilitation team combined has over fifty years of neuro-rehab experience and is ready to help you get back to your most functional self. We asked a few general questions to our team to help you better understand the program and how it is helping our patients.
Q:  I have recently been diagnosed with a progressive neurological issue such as Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis. How do I know if I’m ready for therapy?
A:  Getting evaluated by a Physical Therapist can provide guidance towards fitness to prolong the onset of impairments or to address any ongoing impairments or loss in function.  We can do fall risk assessments, set you up with a community gym program, or advise you on equipment such as bracing or a need for an assistive device.
Q:  I had a stroke or brain injury years ago and lately I have not been as mobile as I once was, do I qualify for therapy services?
A: Even if you are doing just fine, but surely if you have had a setback, attending an evaluation for therapy services can ensure that you are on the right track. After the evaluation, we can decide the treatment route that is best suited for you – even if it is just a month or two of services to optimize your function.
Q: What makes your program different?
A: We have experienced therapists who have years of specific neurological experience and certifications and are ready to work with you. Our team has a combined fifty plus years in neuro therapy working with all diagnoses. We will create a rehabilitation program to meet your specific needs, and help you recover as quickly as possible.

Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Therapy

What is BFR (Blood Flow Restriction) Therapy?
  • Blood Flow Restriction is a technique which helps improve muscular growth, muscle repair, and aerobic capacity in combination with resistance and aerobic exercises.
  • BFR allows the body to respond to low intensity exercise as if it were moderate-to-high intensity exercise.
  • BFR is customized to each individual.
Who can benefit from BFR Therapy?
  • Athletes who wish to train with lower intensities due to injuries 
  • Post-Surgical patients looking to rebuild muscle strength at a quicker rate
  • Geriatric patients who would like to reverse deconditioning 
  • Individuals recovering from a rotator cuff injury, an ACL injury, or total joint replacement such as shoulder, hip or knee
Potential benefits of BFR Therapy:
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Increased aerobic capacity
  • Decreased pain and stiffness

BFR Therapy is a new technique being utilized in professional sports and military training facilities to improve recovery times, reduce stress to athletes, minimize treatment times. If you think you may be able to benefit from BFR feel free to contact us!

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