Cork physio takes classes online to support Parkinson's sufferers

Chartered physiotherapist Conor O’Mullane is now using Zoom from his home near Cork city to keep the classes going with his clients, many of whom are cocooning.
Cork physio takes classes online to support Parkinson's sufferers

Eoin English speaks to chartered physiotherapist Conor O’Mullane about his online exercise classes on Zoom for patients with Parkinson’s Disease.

Physio Conor O’Mullane is conducting his PD Rebel exercise classes on Zoom. "Lots of people with Parkinson’s go for regular walks but it doesn’t give you the type of exercise that you really need."
Physio Conor O’Mullane is conducting his PD Rebel exercise classes on Zoom. "Lots of people with Parkinson’s go for regular walks but it doesn’t give you the type of exercise that you really need."

Meet the physio who’s moved his special exercise classes for people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) online to ensure they can continue to slow the progress of their condition during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Chartered physiotherapist Conor O’Mullane piloted his PD Rebel classes, designed in association with the Cork Parkinson’s Association, from his base at the Arena Clinic in UCC’s Mardyke Arena in Cork last November.

Such was the success of the first 10-week programme, demand for places doubled and a second class was launched earlier this year with 22 participants with Parkinson’s.

However, the lockdown forced the cancellation of the classes in the Mardyke Arena, putting the progress made by the participants at risk.

But Mr O’Mullane, who developed a special interest in Parkinson’s through his father-in-law who was diagnosed with PD nearly 15-years ago, is now using Zoom from his home near the city to keep the classes going with his clients, many of whom are cocooning all over Cork.

“Medication helps with symptom relief and general exercise programmes will keep you healthy, but neither slow the progression of the condition,” Mr O’Mullane said.

“The recent evidence demonstrates that the right kind of exercise programme is a way to modify the course of your Parkinson’s.”

The PD Rebels programme features a range of specific exercises for people with the progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. While tremors are common, the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.

Those who sign up for the exercise course must commit to a 10-week challenge which involves 20-30 minutes of exercise daily and attendance at a weekly exercise class.

Nick Smith, 69, who lives in Rosscarbery and who was diagnosed with PD last October, said he has seen the benefits of the classes already. “I found it difficult to accept my diagnosis at the start and went to a support group in Bandon where I heard about these classes,” he said.

“I went along to the first one and over the weeks, we’ve developed great camaraderie and I’ve started to accept my diagnosis, and have felt a sense of kinship and encouragement. We are all in the same boat, just pulling on different oars.”

He returned to swimming in January and found his capacity to swim had improved, with better muscle coordination and sensation.

“Exercise and physio is the order of the day with this illness. It lessens the impact of the severity of the illness,” he said.

Ted Horgan, chair of the Cork Parkinson’s Association, also takes the classes.

“Lots of people with Parkinson’s go for regular walks but it doesn’t give you the type of exercise that you really need,” he said.

“These classes target specific muscles and areas of muscles to strengthen your core and your reach. They challenge the person with Parkinson’s in the right way. The value of exercise cannot be over-stated. “The online classes are virtually the same as the Mardyke classes. There is a great social aspect to it in a relaxed social setting.”

You can get more info on the PD Rebels programme at conor.omullane@ucc.ie.

Meanwhile, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland has also turned to technology to ensure 1,200 brain injury survivors continue to receive vital supports during the pandemic, by offering psychology therapy, mindfulness classes and cognitive group sessions by phone and social media apps.

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