Keeping people with Parkinson’s ‘rock steady’

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 1/5/22

HONESDALE, PA — “Exercise,” said Suzanne Atcavage, “is medicine.”

Especially for Parkinson’s Disease. No matter your age when it falls into your life like an …

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Keeping people with Parkinson’s ‘rock steady’

Posted

HONESDALE, PA — “Exercise,” said Suzanne Atcavage, “is medicine.”

Especially for Parkinson’s Disease. No matter your age when it falls into your life like an unwelcome gift, exercise is vital.

But when people think “exercise,” they think “walking.” What Atcavage, a doctorate-level physical therapist specializing in neurological disorders, is offering is rather different.

Rock Steady Boxing gets patients, well, boxing.

A person with Parkinson’s gradually loses the neurotransmitter dopamine. “Dopamine is essential to allow us to move freely and without thought to how we are moving,” Atcavage said.  “When this depletion happens, movement is affected. Movement becomes slower and the body more rigid.” People start to lose their functional ability to do the things they need and want to. The risk of falls with injury increases.

High-intensity exercise, she said, helps to slow the course of the disease and helps restore lost movement.

The Rock Steady program, held in the Jadwin Building on 8th Street in Honesdale, “works on all facets of the disease.  Each class I teach is a little different but structured the same,” she said. “Only about 30 percent of the class is actual boxing.”

The exercises focus on flexibility, endurance, agility, balance, strength, mobility and cognition.  “I think that’s the part I love about it—it’s not ‘cookie cutter’ and I can meet each class and each person in that class at their own level.”

Atcavage is a DPT (doctor of physical therapy) and holds Federation of State board designation as a neurological clinical specialist of physical therapy. She and her husband Stephen own Comprehensive Physical Therapy, and she primarily works in the Honesdale office, treating patients with vertigo, concussion, movement disorders and other neurological conditions.

Adding Rock Steady to her repertoire came courtesy of the pandemic. Early on, her father, who has Parkinson’s, lost access to his Rock Steady classes and suggested that she start teaching them.

So she looked into it, and then jumped on board.

After getting certified, she started teaching Rock Steady, and COVID-19 hasn’t slowed her classes down, especially in 2021. There are four classes a week, at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with a few Saturday classes added in when there’s interest.

Atcavage said she has around a dozen regular participants; some attend once a week, some twice. They range in age from their 50s to their 80s; Parkinson’s Disease is the common denominator.

The program can be customized to the needs of the boxers, so they stay safe and are able to complete the class. Some stand for activities, some sit.

Classes cost less than $8 each; they aren’t billable to insurance, but she works with her clients and offers “scholarships.” “I don’t want anyone to not participate due to cost,” she said. Because of her father, “this program is really personal to me, and it is a way for me to give back.”

New boxers are welcome. To learn more, visit Comprehensive Physical Therapy’s website at https://www.cptrehab.net and click on the tab for Specialty Programs and then Parkinson’s Programming.

To sign up, call the Honesdale office at 570/251-3499. An assessment is mandatory, to make sure that a person is safe to exercise.

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