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Archive for the ‘Parkinson’s Disease’ Category

How “a Physical Therapist specializing in Parkinson’s disease changed…saved my life as I know it”

Posted on: January 28th, 2021

This post was written by Valerie Johnson

By Brian George

How a Physical Therapist specializing in Parkinson’s disease (PD) changed … saved my life as I know it.

I was diagnosed with PD a year ago after experiencing symptoms for a couple of years. I am lucky. I seem to be on a slow progression, currently on two medications, both agonists.

From a time before my formal diagnosis, I have understood that exercise is critically important therapy. I was exercising more, but humans are not good at connecting future consequences with immediate actions. I was thinking of exercise today as an investment in a delay in being wheelchair bound in 15 – 20 years. 

Then I got an email introducing me to the MIND (Movement Initiative for the Newly Diagnosed) program, a Parkinson’s Foundation community grant recipient. The initial evaluation and therapy sessions were at no cost, covered by a grant. The email came from Valerie Johnson, PT, DPT, a physical therapist specializing in PD. I had nothing to lose. There were still spots open under the grant, so I signed up. It was perhaps the best decision of my life.

Dr. Johnson through her practice, Balance Therapy LLC, proved to be fantastic in many ways. She is extremely knowledgeable regarding movement exercises specifically useful for Parkinson’s. Like all great physical therapists, Dr. Johnson is a great motivator and a hard task master.

But the most important gift she gave me was a different understanding, on an emotional level, of the value and importance of the exercise in which she was training me. I had many questions regarding the specific benefits of the individual movements and why and how they provided those benefits. She answered those questions in an accessible and useful way. For instance, she summarized that she was “retraining my brain.”

Dr. Johnson’s credibility made her persuasive, and she persuaded me that there were both long-term and immediate short-term benefits to these exercises. The short-term perspective is critically important because it is much more likely to motive action today. Having been “converted” in believer in the benefits of physical therapy across the arc of my Parkinson’s progression, I threw myself into learning the exercises and improving my form, which is critically important.

The results have been immediate. I feel better (more free in my movements) than I have since my diagnosis and will be discussing dropping one of my medication at my next neurological appointment. I cannot be strong enough in my recommendation to seek out Dr. Johnson, or physical therapy. The education in exercise technique is immensely valuable. The gift of a transformed mindset regarding real engagement in that exercise is priceless.

Learn more about the benefits of physical therapy to help manage Parkinson’s symptoms. For a physical therapist referral or to learn more, call our Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (1-800-473-4636).

Dr. Valerie Johnson’s Favorite Resources for PD

Posted on: October 21st, 2019

This post was written by Valerie Johnson

Here are some of my favorite resources for Parkinson’s disease. Check it out and keep it handy for when you are looking for new ideas to optimize your life with PD. Add any of your favorite PD resources in the comments!

Special thanks to Susie Baxter for collaborating with me on this list!

Find A PD Professional

Balance Therapy LLC with Dr. Valerie Johnson, PT, DPT

LSVT BIG Physical and Occupational Therapy– LSVT BIG trains people with Parkinson disease (PD) to use their body and move more normally.

LSVT LOUD Speech and Swallowing Therapy– LSVT LOUD trains people with PD to use their voice at a more normal loudness level while speaking at home, work, or in the community. Key to the treatment is helping people “recalibrate” their perceptions so they know how loud or soft they sound to other people and can feel comfortable using a stronger voice at a normal loudness level.

Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery- physical therapy and exercise professionals.

PWR!4Life is a proactive program that allows you to optimize your brain change (neuroplasticity), brain repair, and increase your desire to participate in everyday LIFE. Therefore, it should start at diagnosis and continue “4 Life”!  With early intervention and ongoing programming, you can GET BETTER and STAY BETTER. But better yet, your efforts may trigger positive brain changes (neuroplasticity) that are disease modifying and thereby, contribute to slowing the disease progression.

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy Specialist– If you are having trouble with low back pain and/or constipation it may be worth getting an evaluation from a women’s and men’s health physical therapist. They are the experts in the structure and function of the pelvis. Provider directory:

Parkinson’s Voice Project- PVP and it’s affiliates offer therapy, community voice and singing classes, events, and education. 90% of people with Parkinson’s are at risk of developing a weak voice that can lead to serious speech and swallowing difficulties. Parkinson Voice Project’s speech therapy program addresses these issues. PVP also has online educational webinars covering various PD topics from experts around the globe.

Seattle Integrative Health with Laurie Mischley, ND, PhD

Seattle Integrative Medicine is a private integrated health clinic located just west of Northgate in Seattle, Washington. We offer whole person care and consultations for people with acute and chronic illnesses as well as help individuals take an active role in prevention.


Bent: How Yoga Saved my Ass by Anne Clendening

Every Victory Counts by the Davis Phinney Foundation- Essential Information and inspiration for a Lifetime of Wellness with Parkinson’s Disease

Make time to Heal by Bianca Molle’ M.E.d

No Excuses: My Life with Parkinson’s Disease by Dusty Berry

Optimal Health with Parkinson’s Disease A guide to Integrating Lifestyle, Alternative and Conventional Medicine

The Ribbon of Road Ahead: One Woman’s Remarkable Journey with Parkinson’s Disease by Carol Clupny

Facebook Groups

Balance Crowd with Valerie Johnson, PT, DPT from Balance Therapy LLC

Everything About Parkinson’s Disease– a people with PD give each other advice on all things PD.

Mark Burek FB page and founder of Hope Soars Non-profit

Parkinson’s Women: Offers moral support, encouragement and camaraderie for women who are Parkinson’s Disease patients.

The intent of the site and Facebook page is not to prescribe medical advice about the diagnosis, treatment, or other medical aspects of PD but to provide support and encouragement for women living with this condition. I hope that the research and information noted in this blog will help you with your understanding and management of the disease.



Start Living Today PD with Heidi Reynolds

Strongher Together: Women fighting Parkinson’s

YOPD Forums-Parkinson’s Support Group

Online Exercise Programs (Cognitive, Educational, and Physical)

Theracycle- Motor-Assisted Theracycle© Forced-Exercise Bike for Parkinson’s Sufferers. Reduces Rigidity, Tremors & Falls. Improves Balance, Rigidity, Tremor, Strength, Mood & Sleep.

Peloton- Live and on-demand Stream Cycling, Running, Bootcamp & Other Workouts Daily. 

PD Warrior-Youtube and online membership coaching and exercises. Finding PD Warrior may be your chance to improve your situation, to move better, think better, look better, build your confidence.

PD School: Laurie Mischley’s online educational course on all things PD and wellness. Highly recommend for anyone newly diagnosed or ready to learn.

Dance for PD- In Dance for PD® classes, participants are empowered to explore movement and music in ways that are refreshing, enjoyable, stimulating and creative. There is an online memberships available for streaming classes.

Dance Dance Revolution- The premise of Dance Dance Revolution is to move one’s feet to a set pattern. The song selection interface of Dance DanceRevolution is a jukebox-like menu of CDs. Players must step to the beat, matching their beat to the arrows presented to them on screen by stepping on arrows on a dance stage.You may need to search and watch a youtube video to understand how to do this.

PWR!Moves Gym virtual classes– guided plans and video library offer a wide variety of class types, intensity levels, and instructors, so you can work out and work toward your personal goals, all while having a ton of fun (

Neurotracker-  a cognitive training program that is designed to improve mental performance. Brain scans reveal that NeuroTracker training sustainably increases brainwave speeds, associated with heightened alertness and learning capacity. Peer reviewed research shows that NeuroTracker training significantly enhances attention, executive function, working memory and processing speed.

Nintendo Wii Fit- Contains more than 40 activities designed to engage the player in physical exercise, which consist of yoga poses, strength training, aerobics, and balance games. Most activities generally focus on maintaining COB and improving posture.

Rogue Physical Therapy– Online classes include a variety of PD specific exercise work outs including but not limited to HIIT, dance, PWR!move, Yoga, Brain challenge, cooking, and happy hour! (

Yoga Anytime- An online membership of unlimited yoga classes to start, inspire, & support your home practice. Discover the benefits of a regular yoga practice with the help of our yoga shows and guided meditations. New classes are added weekly. Streaming available on all devices.

Boho Beautiful– Free yoga Youtube Channel with a variety of 20 minute classes filmed in a variety of stunning destinations. It’s like your own online yoga retreat.

Community Exercise Programs

Dance for PD- Find onsite affiliate classes near you. Dance for PD offers internationally-acclaimed dance classes for people with Parkinson’s disease in Brooklyn, New York and, through their network of partners and associates, in more than 250 other communities in 25 countries.

Peddling for Parkinson’s- Participants will ride on a solo stationary bike three times a week. Each one-hour exercise session consists of a 10-minute warm-up, up to a 40-minute main exercise set, and a 10-minute cooldown. Rest breaks will be taken as needed. Check with your local YMCA.

Rock Steady Boxing- Non-contact boxing to lessen their symptoms and lead a healthier and happier life. Find a class near you.

Orange Theory Fitness– One hour, high energy HIIT workouts that are not limited to people with PD. Great for getting your heart rate up for brain change. (

Smart Phone APPS for Cognition, Exercise Classes, and Exergaming

Brain HQ- brain exercises to build your cognitive resilience. 15+ years scientific proof. 40+ Research studies. 100+ peer-reviewed papers. Real-world benefits. Independently validated. Courses: Memory, Attention, Brain Speed, Intelligence, People Skills, Navigation.

PD Warrior- The PD Warrior App is your personal Parkinson’s coach! Challenge your body and mind with this Parkinson’s specific exercise program.

Clock Yourself- Can you think on your feet? CLOCK YOURSELF = Physical Exercise + Cognitive Exercise is great for practicing reactive steps, weight shifts and direction changes.

Peloton- Feel the rush of instructor-led studio classes anytime, anywhere on the Peloton app. You can expect a mix of running, bootcamp, yoga, strength, cycling, and outdoor workouts available at a tap.

Insight Timer- Guided meditations

Calm- guided meditations

Headspace- guided meditations

Wordscapes- cognitive training and practice

Soundbrenner Metronome App- may be used as auditory rhythmic cues for movement and speech

Soundbrenner Pulse Wearable Metronome- Wearable, smart, and powered by vibrations to help develop an inner sense of rhythm speed and accuracy.

Mindbody App- Find and book the best fitness and wellness in your community, and around the world. Yoga, massage, group fitness, barre and more. Find the experiences that you love, and book them instantly on the MINDBODY app.

Zombies, Run! is an immersive running game app in which gamers are tasked with surviving a zombie apocalypse. As gamers jog in real life, they can listen to scary story lines and sound effects of zombies chasing them. In fact, gamers have to speed up whenever a zombie is on their heels. The farther you run, the more supplies you collect to survive. It’s a great outlet for interval training.

Geocoaching- is an outdoor game app in which people use an app or a GPS device to discover hidden containers around the world. Yes, real containers, and some of them even contain small trinkets for trade. It’s likened to a real-life treasure hunt.

SpecTrek is an augmented reality ghost-hunting game in which users must walk or run to various locations to find virtual ghosts and “catch” them on their phone’s camera.

BallStrike- users have to punch or kick a series of balls that appear all around them in their phones’ or tablets’ rear-facing cameras. The idea is for the user to twist and turn to hit each ball, making the ball explode.

The Walk– which was developed by the same team that created Zombies, Run!, the gamer must carry a package that could save the world to a mysterious destination. As the player walks during the day, they get closer and get closer to the destination, while also unlocking immersive audio story clips along the way. The game takes three months to complete, which might be long enough to develop a new fitness habit.

Superhero Workout- was developed by the same creators of Zombies, Run! and The Walk. In the game, the user becomes the pilot of a battle suit tasked with defending the world against alien forces. The game requires the user to complete real-world exercises, from abdominal crunches to arm punches, to defeat the aliens. The app uses motion detection to track the user’s progress.

Jump, Jump Froggy- The game app requires users to physically jump around to help a frog collect flies buzzing around its head to eat.


Michael J. Fox Foundation: Help find a Parkinson’s cure. Give to Parkinson’s research to speed critical breakthroughs.

Parkinson’s Voice Project:

Parkinson’s Foundation

Davis Phinney Foundation– Devoted to helping people with Parkinsons’ live well today. Visit their new resources section to explore articles, videos, webinars, podcasts, and more by topic or use the search bar to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Specialties for a complementary healthcare team

Movement Disorder SpecialistNeurologist specializing in movement disorders

Neuro-psychiatrist A psychiatrist specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the brain which cause behavioral, psychological and psychiatric symptoms. The neuropsychiatrist generally completes a 4-year residency in psychiatry and then a one-year fellowship in neuropsychiatry.

Neuro-psychologist a psychologist who specializes in understanding the relationship between the physical brain and behavior. The brain is complex. Disorders within the brain and nervous system can alter behavior and cognitive function.

Neuro-opthomologist Specialty dealing with portions of the nervous system that pertain to the eye and/ or visual system.

Neuro-optometrist Neuro-optometric services are provided to individuals who have vision related problems associated with neurological disease, trauma, metabolic or congenital conditions. When the visual system is disturbed neurologically, it can adversely affect activities of daily living for both children and adults.

Physical Therapist- Big Therapy and PWR!Moves Therapy for PD

Occupational Therapist- Big Therapy and PWR!Moves Therapy for PD

Speech Therapist- LSVT LOUD and Speak Out

Chiropractic care- Performed by a practitioner of the system of integrative medicine based on the diagnosis and manipulative treatment of misalignments of the joints.

Sexologistsexologist is a person who studies sexual relationships and gives advice or makes reports. You can find a practitioner near you at

Marriage and Family Therapy- Couples therapy is a type of psychotherapy in which a therapist with clinical experience working with couples gain insight into their relationship, resolve conflict and improve relationship satisfaction 

Nutritionist- A person who studies or is an expert in nutrition.

Pilates Exercise for Parkinson’s Disease

Posted on: July 15th, 2019

This post was written by Valerie Johnson

By Valerie Johnson, PT, DPT and Chrystal Kafka

Is Pilates good for Parkinson’s you ask? The answer is… Sometimes.

I’ve teamed up with the wonderful Chrystal Kafka to tackle this Pilates/ PD predicament. She is a Pilates instructor who also has Parkinson’s disease. As a Parkinson’s physical therapist and Pilates instructor myself, we can help you optimize your exercise program with a modified Pilates practice for PD.

We’ve applied PD-specific, research-based exercise principles to Pilates to help you maximize the benefits of your practice, drive back, and stave off your PD symptoms. If you are a fan of Pilates, there are special considerations for Parkinson’s. Sit back, take a deep, diaphragmatic breath and learn from the pros.

No single exercise program can check all the PD boxes. This is great, because with the amount of exercise people with Parkinson’s need, variety and choice is a plus. Exercising good PD-specific exercise principles is important when practicing Pilates. For people with Parkinson’s, there are some Pilates exercises that you should avoid and others on which you should capitalize. Furthermore, Pilates instructors are not given extra training in teaching people with PD. Therefore, it is helpful for you to know some simple Pilates do’s and don’t’s so that you can advocate for yourself and reap all the benefits of exercise for PD.

Before we dig deeper into this subject. Remember to check in with your Parkinson’s physical therapist every 6-12 months to keep tabs on the quality of your movements and your PD symptoms at bay. Pilates should be considered one of your exercise maintenance programs between stints of physical therapy and not a substitute for it.

Find a Parkinson’s Physical Therapist in your area here.

1. Building Neuro-pathways

Now THIS is where the magic happens for people with Parkinson’s disease. Pilates is known for its positive effect on a person’s physique. But let’s take a moment to consult your inner nerd and consider its effect on the brain. Pilates involves whole body coordination and timing, it can be a great tool for re-educating and re-wiring the neural connections in your brain to make movement easier. Focusing your attention on executing simultaneous trunk and limb movements required for Pilates carries over into your daily life activities.  For example, this skill enables you to change positions with more ease in bed, in/ out of chairs, initiating walking, and changing directions while walking.

These are transitional movement skills that become more challenging with the progression of PD. However, it is also a skill that you can relearn and maintain with practice. It may seem like you are going to extreme measures, but moving in novel and intentional ways is a fantastic way for your brain to learn new skills and maintain functional mobility. If the movements feel unnatural at first, you are probably doing something right. The goal is to use Pilates and other forms of exercise to get your brain’sattention, and then keep it by practicing over and over with effort!  

2. Stretching Beyond Your Perceived Limits and Building Body Awareness

 The very nature of Parkinson’s disease robs you of your ability to accurately perceive the quality of your movements. Larger and faster movements are challenging for people with Parkinson’s because the disease interferes with their ability to know if they are moving adequately. Building body awareness is 90% of the battle for people with PD. Pilates has moving and stationary straps, bars, handles, and platforms that can provide support and feedback while you intentionally stretch beyond your perceived limits. 

3. Exercising Alone is Lonely

Remember, your brain gets a boost when the activity is fun, fabulous, and social. Not just that, but work out buddies compel you. Encourage you. It’s an amazing phenomenon that I’m sure you’ve witnessed and is too important to disregard. Working out with a Parkinson’s pal is even better, so if you don’t have any, Pilates could be a great opportunity to partner up with another exerciser with Parkinson’s. We know you aren’t alone in your fight against Parkinson’s, and you don’t have to be. In summary, your Pilates practice should feel more like a dance party and less like an individual sport.

With this in mind, at-home fitness videos may not be the best choice for people with Parkinson’s disease. As part of your overall PD fitness program, try setting up Pilates with a certified instructor to cheer you on and help you maximize all the amazing benefits Pilates has to offer. It is more advantageous for persons with Parkinson’s to rely on a certified Pilates instructor to give you visual, verbal, auditory, and hands on feedback, especially if you are new to Pilates. As you gain experience and improve your ability to perceive your own movements, you can graduate to duets, trios, or classes with occasional privates to keep your movements and body awareness on point. Pilates duets and/or group equipment exercise classes great ways to work out in the company of friends.

4. Breathing

 Sounds simple enough, right? Diaphragmatic breathing is a complex subject and is invaluable to people with Parkinson’s disease. Pilates is a mind/ body exercise, meaning the goal is to use your breath as a guide for your movement. For example, you inhale as you expand your body and exhale as you contract your body. It’s good to challenge your brain to plan and execute movements while breathing at the same time. Additionally, deep inhales and prolonged exhales are an effective way to calm the nervous system and help you relax, which primes the brain to better learn new movement skills. Utilizing breath is a wonderful way for anyone to stay present and on task, and people with Parkinson’s get a brain boost from breathing intentionally.

While shallow breathing can promote body tension, deliberate and deep breathing can make movement and speech feel more automatic and add some much needed pizzazz to your movements. Vocalizing your exhales with a sustained vowel sound. Perhaps and easier way for people with Parkinson’s disease to promote relaxation, rhythmic breathing, and diaphragmatic engagement is by vocalizing sustained “SSSSSSSSSS” sounds with every exhale.

Pilates is a whole body exercise program, meaning it engages multiple muscle systems at once. It’s good for your Parkinson’s brain to practice using multiple muscle systems simultaneously, just as you need it to do in daily life. By using the muscles required for speech, breathing, posture, and limb coordination all at once, Pilates can help person’s with Parkinson’s power through life with more finesse.

5. Lengthening and Strengthening- Building muscle strength, upright posture, and range of motion.

Now, this is where it gets tricky. Pilates can be a great tool to hit PD right where it hurts by targeting the muscles that get overly tight and weak. However, without the proper PD-specific exercise precautions and a practitioner who specializes in PD, Pilates can strengthen and stretch the wrong muscles and perpetuate the symptoms and progression of PD such as stiffness, slowness, and stooped posture. 

The goal with any PD specific exercise program is to stretch and open up the muscles in the front of the body and strengthen the muscles in the back of the body that hold our posture upright against gravity. Additionally, spine flexibility and core strength are vital if you want to move with more ease and preserve your upright posture. All of these components of movement can be well addressed with an informed PD-specific Pilates practice.

In Pilates, there can be too much emphasis on front body muscle contractions (think classic “Hundred” exercise in the warm up. It is the exercise I’m demonstrating at the photo). This makes the muscles in the front of the body overly strong and tightly bound. People with Parkinson’s already have a tendency to be too tight and strong in these muscle groups, especially in the hip flexors, trunk, pecs, and shoulders. Contracted and tight muscles in the front of the body can promote rolled shoulders, forward head, forward chin posturing and neck tension, and result in, you guessed it, more stooped posture.  

6. Keeping It Snappy

Movement timing is important and degenerates with the progression of PD. For example, simple movements such as walking and swinging your arms requires an internal sense of rhythm. Traditionally, Pilates is not performed to music or sounds. However, for people with Parkinson’s disease, adding rhythmic cues such as music or a metronome could set you free

7. Finding Cardio in Your PD Workout Regime

We know that cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow to the brain and ignites its attention and memory centers. It’s important to balance your PD exercise regime with cardio. This makes it easier for you to learn and keep new functional movement skills.

If you are familiar with Pilates, the Pilates jump board is one way to bring in cardio. However, we do not recommend jump board activities for PWP, especially while laying on your back, as these exercises can promote muscle tension and foster rigidity for people with PD. Keep in mind, if you aren’t getting enough cardio from your Pilates program, you need to get it from another exercise mode you love such as running or cycling, etc.  

There you have it. This article should be considered a broad heads up and not a comprehensive guide for Pilates for PWP. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.

Valerie Johnson, PT, DPT

One Woman’s Journey with Parkinson’s Disease

Posted on: April 17th, 2019

This post was written by Valerie Johnson

Everyone’s experience with Parkinson’s disease is different. Symptoms and disease progressions vary greatly among individuals with PD. Here is an interview with Cathy Clark. From competitive swimming to being diagnosed with early onset PD, here is one woman’s journey through PD and how she returned to exercise later in life.

Brain changing PWR!Moves classes for Parkinson’s disease at TCU

Balance Therapy:  Hi Cathy, thank you for sharing your insight and experience with us. Let’s dive right in.  Tell us a little bit about your background.

Cathy:  I am 65 years old, and have had Parkinson’s Disease for 21 years.

Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, I had an active lifestyle and began swimming competitively at age 9.  I continued swimming while attending High School and College. In 1977, I began teaching Kindergarten in Ft.Worth and went on to received a Master’s degree from Texas Christian University, specializing in Early Childhood Education. I am a proud Mother of one son, Scott, born in 1984, a constant blessing in my life. I continued teaching until retiring in 2008. (33 years)

I enjoyed working in the yard, mowing and gardening, water sports, sail boarding, and skiing. In the summer months I taught private water safety and swimming lessons. I also joined the Granbury Seals Swimming Team, in 1999. I continued swimming and coaching until 2012.

Balance Therapy: How has your life changed since your diagnosis?

Cathy: I believe my active early life, has had a positive impact on living with Parkinson’s Disease. In 1997, age 44, I was strong, and in excellent health, when I noticed the tremor in my left hand. Two years later. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and began taking a dopamine agonist, Permax. Various medications were successful in controlling my symptoms. Over the years, through trial and error, I tried most of the common drugs at one time or another.

Balance Therapy: How has your lifestyle changed to improve your PD symptoms?

Cathy: In 2006, I learned that too much protein sabotaged my medicine, resulting in  “OFF”spells. These “OFF” times produce severe  body  pain and hinder movement. I began a limited protein diet, cautiously monitoring protein amounts. Servings of 4-5 grams of protein, spacing adequate amounts throughout the day, scheduling meds, carbidopa / levodopa  1 hour before protein or 2 hours after. 

Balance Therapy: What treatments have you tried besides medication?

Cathy: In 2013, after dyskinsia (a side effect of carbidopa/levodopa for some patients) became debilitating, I had successful Deep Brain Stimulation, ridding me totally of dyskinsia, allowing for a much better quality of life. PD continues to advance, and medication is becoming less effective. Symptoms that are not helped by DBS are “ freezing”, impaired speech, illegible handwriting and balance problems. In spite of recovering from several serious falls, I try to have a positive attitude, remembering all of the things that I still can do.

Balance Therapy: How did you discover physical therapy for treating Parkinson’s?

Cathy: I met Dr. Valerie Johnson in October, 2018, at the Parkinson’s Foundation Moving Day. Dr. Valerie was in her booth, in person, greeting everyone with her memorable smile. She displayed confidence and self assurance as she took time with those that stopped by, answering questions with certainty and encouragement.

I was having difficulty speaking and she listened patiently, expressing support, as well as a sincere interest in understanding my concerns. Dr. Valerie instilled in me knowledge and thoughts of another way. I experienced renewal in faith, hope, and spirit from her motivational energy.

Dr. Valerie Johnson, a Physical Therapist, specializes in Balance therapy and works with Parkinson patients. She is aware, and understands, the multifaceted symptoms and complications of Parkinson’s disease, effecting patients in different ways. Her perspective is that over time, a Parkinson’s brain looses connection with the body, causing progressive symptoms. She believes that with time and work, we can “wake -up” the brain and re-learn to do things that we haven’t been able to do, or that have gotten hard to do.

Balance Therapy: Thank you Cathy! What role has exercise played in managing your Parkinson’s disease?

Cathy: The reality of the brain- loss connection became very apparent to me, as the new exercises were introduced . A rather simple stepping  exercise left me totally LOST!  I just did not / could not understand and I could not make my legs, feet, (or brain) do it! Dr. Valerie, poised and graceful, is very deliberate demonstrating her expectations. I try to watch and listen carefully and to follow directions, remembering the proper movement, to hold my posture, to widen my steps. But this time, I did not get it. Feeling extremely confused, I ask her to show me and tell me again… Slowly… and again, and a third time. She patiently demonstrated, stood beside me, doing it with me, talking me through the steps, slowly, praising my effort and encouraging me with comfort in her voice, In her patient and gentle manner, she helped me work through the twisted reality going on in my blank mind. I worked on it at home, and finally did it, correctly, and several sessions later

I was swimming again. I appreciate Dr. Valerie and her commitment to the community and I benefit greatly for her positive energy!!!

 In addition to private physical therapy, Dr. Valerie brings the same confidence, support and enthusiasm to group exercise classes.  Now I participate in weekly PWR! MOVES, (Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery MOVES). Valerie teaches PD community-based exercise classes that and are funded by a grant from the Parkinson’s Foundation of DFW. This program is for those affected by PD. It is a specific skill-training program to maintain or restore skills that deteriorate, interfering with everyday movement.  Dr.Valerie Johnson is nurturing, and encouraging to each class participant.

I also recently started attending a weekly boxing class led by Scott Morris, Round 9 Kickboxing Fitness . This is a similar format to improve balance eye-hand coordination, endurance and self-confidence.

Mental Health and Parkinson’s Disease

Posted on: June 24th, 2018

This post was written by Valerie Johnson

When you are combating something like PD, you can’t undervalue your mental health. Stress, anxiety, depression, and apathy are common in PD. Depression can be one of the first symptoms of PD before motor symptoms even arise. Further more, stress can make motor symptoms such as tremor and dyskinesia worse. Stress not! Depression and associated symptoms are quite treatable. In this talk, you will hear advice from mental health expert Ashley Stafford, LCSW. We will learn how to identify symptoms and discuss various treatment strategies available to you and your loved ones.

Parkinson’s disease: Exercise Essentials

Posted on: April 15th, 2018

This post was written by Valerie Johnson

Are you interested in reducing your PD symptoms, decreasing your reliance on PD medications, and preventing falls? If you answered yes to any of these questions then this is the video for you. Dr. Valerie Johnson, PT, DPT teams up with Dr. Alison Geymer, PT, DPT to discuss the importance of exercise for PD. Enjoy!