Complementary and Supportive Therapies for Parkinson’s Disease

A wide variety of complementary and supportive therapies may be used for PD.  Among these therapies are standard physical, occupational, and speech therapy techniques, which can help with such problems as gait and voice disorders, tremors and rigidity, and cognitive decline.  Other types of supportive therapies include:


At this time there are no specific vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients that have any proven therapeutic value in PD.  An NINDS clinical study of the dietary supplement coenzyme Q10 was stopped in 2011 when results from an interim analysis showed active treatment with the supplement was unlikely to demonstrate a statistically significant difference than from a placebo.  The NINDS and other components of the National Institutes of Health are funding research to determine if caffeine, antioxidants, and other dietary factors may be beneficial for preventing or treating PD.  While there is currently no proof that any specific dietary factor is beneficial, a normal, healthy diet can promote overall well-being for people with PD just as it would for anyone else.  Eating a fiber-rich diet and drinking plenty of fluids also can help alleviate constipation.  A high protein diet, however, may limit levodopa's absorption, highlighting the importance of the timing of medications.


Exercise can help people with PD improve their mobility and flexibility.  Some doctors prescribe physical therapy or muscle-strengthening exercises to tone muscles and to put underused and rigid muscles through a full range of motion.  The effects of exercise on disease progression are not known, but it may improve body strength so that the person is less disabled.  Exercises also improve balance, helping people minimize gait problems, and can strengthen certain muscles so that people can speak and swallow better.  Exercise can improve emotional well-being and general physical activity, such as walking, gardening, swimming, calisthenics, and using exercise machines, can have other benefit.  An NINDS-funded clinical trial demonstrated the benefit of tai chi exercise compared to resistance or stretching exercises. People with PD should always check with their doctors before beginning a new exercise program.

Other Therapies 

Other complementary and supportive therapies that are used by some individuals with PD include massage therapy, yoga, hypnosis, acupuncture, and the Alexander technique, which optimizes posture and muscle activity.

Another important therapeutic approach involves speech and swallowing evaluation and therapy.  Certain techniques can help with the low voice volume that individuals with Parkinson’s often experience.

Reference: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Last updated May 4, 2017

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