Evaluating benefits of respiratory muscle strengthening for Parkinson’s symptoms

The Perron Institute is currently recruiting participants for a study of inspiratory muscle training (IMT) to improve lung function, gait and balance in people with Parkinson’s.

Abnormal lung function is common in Parkinson’s, contributing to reduced physical activity, fatigue, problems with speech and swallowing, aspiration pneumonia and functional decline.

There is limited information available on interventions that improve ventilatory muscle strength in Parkinson’s. Some studies suggest that such programs may not only improve exercise capacity but also walking, balance, fatigue and sleep in a non-Parkinson’s population.

This study aims to evaluate IMT as a potential treatment for breathlessness, balance and other non-motor symptoms in Parkinson’s, and to monitor the progression of these symptoms through the duration of the study. IMT is a form of resistance training using a breathing device which strengthens the muscles used to breathe.

The Parkinson’s patients required for the study, which is funded by Parkinson’s WA, are those who are mildly to moderately affected by this condition. The study only requires a few in-person appointments at the Perron Institute in Nedlands, with the rest of the appointments completed from home.

Healthy participants who do not have Parkinson’s and are aged over 60 years are also being recruited as a control group.

The results of the study have the potential to deliver significant functional benefits from a simple, home based, easily performed exercise program.

The Principal Investigator is consultant neurologist Clinical Professor Soumya Ghosh, Perron Institute, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Fiona Stanley Hospital. He heads the Restorative Neurology Research group at the Perron Institute.

Preliminary analysis of results from patients recruited earlier for the study has begun, examining the relationship between balance, breathing function and patients’ presentation of Parkinson’s disease. Impairment of pulmonary function, and gait and balance, speech and swallowing have been identified in many of participants.

Preliminary baseline assessments show that pulmonary function, balance and mobility worsen with age, but are not related to duration or severity of disease.

Further details of recruitment for this study can be accessed on our website or by emailing claire.tucak@health.wa.gov.au.

Parkinson's Lung Trial

L-R: Claire Tucak, Jenny Eisenhauer, Prof Soumya Ghosh.