Social distancing may lead to worsening Parkinson’s disease symptoms, but emerging online resources could help reduce debilitating stress, according to a new editorial in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.

Stress not only aggravates motor symptoms in Parkinson’s. It also can reduce the efficacy of common drug treatments such as Levodopa. This, along with lost opportunities to exercise may compromise a patient’s functional abilities and contribute to anxiety, depression and social isolation, noted Rick C. Helmich, M.D., Ph.D., and Bastiaan R. Bloem, M.D., Ph.D., from Radboud University Medical Centre, the Netherlands.

The authors, specialists in Parkinson’s and movement disorders, are optimistic that self management strategies can help patients increase coping abilities during this stressful period. They advocate for taking full advantage of free online resources that have emerged to encourage physical activity and skill building. 

The Parkinson’s Foundation, for one, is now offering Fitness Fridays, a free weekly program aimed at physical therapists and patients, as well as Mindfulness Mondays, which teaches stress-reducing relaxation techniques. Participants can register for these and other weekly online events as part of the organization’s PD Health @ Home program.

Meanwhile, the American Parkinson Disease Association provides links to a variety of free virtual classes from around the web. These engage viewers in activities ranging from balance training, dance and tai chi lessons to speech therapy.

“Online solutions are again essential to diminish this feeling of social isolation, and to provide comfort and hope for people living with Parkinson’s disease who are now grounded within their homes,” the authors concluded.