Helping seniors with Parkinson’s Manage Musculoskeletal Pain

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Managing Musculoskeletal Pain in Seniors

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, shoulder stiffness (“frozen shoulder”), back pain, hip pain and neck pain are the most common musculoskeletal complaints among PD patients. The good news for Parkinson’s caregivers, loved ones, and patients is that such discomfort can usually be managed by a combination of medications, physical therapy, exercise, and diet.

Determining the Source of Musculoskeletal Pain

The first step in treating musculoskeletal pain in seniors with PD is to determine the source of the pain. This is accomplished with diagnostic tests (x-rays, bone scans, ultrasounds, MRIs) along with a comprehensive physical exam that takes into account medical history, posture, and noticeable signs of impaired movement. Seniors are sometimes referred to rheumatologists or orthopedists for further evaluation.


Anti-inflammatory medications, also known as NSAIDs, are often prescribed to ease inflammation associated with musculoskeletal pain. OTC medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can help when pain is mild. Prescription strength NSAIDs are recommended when pain becomes more severe.

Alternative Treatments

While not meant to replace traditional medical treatments, alternative remedies may offer additional relief from musculoskeletal pain. Alternative treatments have the added benefit of often reducing overall stress due to the relaxing nature of such remedies, which may include:

• Acupuncture/acupressure
• Chiropractic care
• Osteopathic manipulation (an approach to pain management designed to restore normal body functions)

Physical Therapy & Exercise

Exercises for PD pain emphasize normal rhythmic movements, and research suggests that physical therapy and exercise tend to help people with PD manage musculoskeletal pain by improving gait, posture, and balance. Home Care Assistance of Toronto also notes that there’s also increasing evidence suggesting exercises that promote learning and attention tend to be more beneficial for Parkinson’s patients. Such exercises include:

• Walking/marching (to music or marching in place)
• Yoga/tai chi
• Water aerobics (easier on muscles while offering the same benefits of regular aerobic exercises)


Diets likely to control musculoskeletal pain best are ones with “good” prostaglandins (chemicals that control inflammation) that reduce painful pressure on muscles and joints. Foods that can help naturally reduce inflammation include:

• Fruits and green leafy vegetables
• Nuts (almonds, walnuts)
• Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna)

If symptoms of Parkinson’s make everyday tasks challenging for your elderly loved one, turn to Home Care Assistance of Toronto.  Our live-in, hourly, and respite care services in Toronto can ensure your loved one has the support he or she needs to continue living a safe and high-quality lifestyle in the comfort of home. For more information, please give us a call at (416) 488-8777.

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