As people living with Parkinson’s disease navigate their diagnosis, they’ll encounter various physicians and specialists with education and experience specific to PD. One of these is a movement disorder specialist (MDS).
Let’s explore the role of a movement disorder specialist in your treatment and how they can help people with PD mitigate and manage symptoms.
What is an MDS (Movement Disorder Specialist)?
A movement disorder specialist is a neurologist who specializes in diagnosing and managing various neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, dystonia, and Huntington’s disease.
Movement disorder specialists work out of both private practices and medical centers.
These specialists are typically neurologists with extra training and expertise in handling PD and other movement disorders. Their primary focus is on understanding the complexities of these disorders and providing specialized care to improve the quality of life for people living with these conditions.
How an MDS Works with Your Parkinson’s Care Team
A movement disorder specialist often comprises one piece of your team of healthcare professionals and other specialists. They often work collaboratively with a general neurologist, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists to provide thorough care and treat movement disorders.
Roles & Treatments for Parkinson’s Provided by an MDS
A movement disorders specialist brings a breadth of experience and treatment options for Parkinson’s to the table. When working with an MDS, you can expect a one-on-one approach tailored to your PD symptoms and specific needs.
Here are several specialties provided by movement disorder specialists.
Movement disorder specialists are highly skilled in accurately diagnosing movement disorders. They use their knowledge of the symptoms, clinical features, and specific tests to distinguish between various conditions that may present with similar symptoms.
Individualized Treatment Plans
After a precise diagnosis, a movement disorder specialist develops a personalized treatment plan based on your unique needs, medical history, and disease progression. Each person’s treatment plan may differ, considering factors such as age, overall health, and stage of PD.
Movement disorders specialists are well-versed in Parkinson’s disease. PD medications may include levodopa, dopamine agonists, MAO-B inhibitors, and other drugs to alleviate symptoms and improve motor function.
An MDS can help get you on a medication regimen that works best for you and adjust dosage as needed.
Deep Brain Stimulation
Movement disorder specialists may recommend deep brain stimulation surgery for those who are eligible.
DBS is a neurosurgical procedure involving the implantation of electrodes in specific areas of the brain to help regulate abnormal electrical signals that cause movement symptoms.
Your movement disorder specialist will consult with a neurosurgeon to plan for the best outcome and performance of the device. They will also work with you post-treatment to adjust the device settings as needed.
Botox injections can relieve symptoms such as muscle spasms and excess saliva production for certain movement disorders like dystonia. A movement disorder specialist is certified to administer these injections and help temporarily relax overactive muscles.
Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation
Movement disorder specialists may work closely with physical and occupational therapists to design exercise programs tailored to the specific needs of each person they treat. Physical and occupational therapy can improve mobility, balance, and overall motor function for individuals with PD.
Cognitive & Emotional Support
The non-motor symptoms of PD can be just as impactful as the motor symptoms that the disease is most commonly associated with. These may include impacts to sleep, digestion, and mental health, to name a few.
Movement disorder specialists may collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as neuropsychologists and psychiatrists, to address cognitive and emotional challenges and provide appropriate support.
Research & Clinical Trials
Many movement disorder specialists are actively involved in research and clinical trials to explore new treatment approaches and potential therapies for movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease. With their finger on the pulse, your MDS can often refer you to appropriate clinical trials and update you on cutting-edge research.
What Are the Benefits of Having an MDS?
The sooner you start care with a movement disorder specialist, the better.
Since a movement disorder specialist is adept at tailoring care to your experience, they can help you plan for future care, prepare for changes in your symptoms, and adapt to them as they come.
The major benefit of utilizing a Parkinson’s specialist is that they can speak more knowledgeably about your experience with PD than a general practitioner.
The sooner you engage with an MDS, the sooner you can address your symptoms and get on a path toward individualized treatment.
How to Find the Right MDS for Parkinson’s
Finding the right movement disorder specialist for your Parkinson’s diagnosis is a personal process. The first step is to engage with health professionals in your network that you trust, such as your neurologist or physical therapist.
They often point you in the right direction of an MDS that they believe will be a good fit based on your specific needs and how they plan to treat conditions.
You may also consider exploring these avenues:
- Ask your insurance provider for a list of qualified neurologists or movement disorder specialists in your network
- Request a referral from other people living with PD
- Use the MDS Finder to locate a specialist or a doctor in your area
- Contact a member of the PCLA team for a recommendation
It’s essential to link up with someone that you trust and feel comfortable asking questions about your diagnosis, so be sure to trust your gut and put in the time to connect with a specialist that brings an empathetic approach to your treatment.
MDS: Trusted Partners in PD Treatment
A movement disorder specialist is a critical part of your care team who works to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life. When you engage with a movement disorder specialist, you’re taking an essential step in prioritizing your health and well-being.
Interested in learning more about how to find an MDS near you? Register for PCLA’s September 14th Let’s Talk Parkinson’s meet and greet with area specialists. A panel of nine doctors will share highlights about their background and expertise, then open the floor to a few questions!
For further information on movement disorder specialists, contact our PCLA team to help you connect and learn more about new movement disorder specialists in your area.