There is inadequate evidence to evaluate the effect of occupational therapy for people with Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive disabling neurodegenerative disease. Symptoms can include problems with movement such as being stiff, slow, and shaky, and sometimes non-motor symptoms such as problems with communication, mood, vision, and problem solving abilities. The role of the occupational therapist is to support individuals with Parkinson's disease and to enable them to maintain their usual level of self-care, work and leisure activities for as long as possible. The review found inadequate evidence from randomised controlled trials to evaluate the effect of occupational therapy for people with Parkinson's disease.

Authors' conclusions: 

Considering the significant methodological flaws in the studies, the small number of patients examined, and the possibility of publication bias, there is insufficient evidence to support or refute the efficacy of occupational therapy in Parkinson's disease. There is now a consensus as to UK current and best practice in occupational therapy when treating people with Parkinson's disease. We now require large well designed placebo-controlled RCTs to demonstrate occupational therapy's effectiveness in Parkinson's disease. Outcome measures with particular relevance to patients, carers, occupational therapists and physicians should be chosen and the patients monitored for at least six months to determine the duration of benefit. The trials should be reported using CONSORT guidelines.

Read the full abstract...

Despite drug and surgical therapies for Parkinson's disease, patients develop progressive disability. It has both motor and non-motor symptomatology, and their interaction with their environment can be very complex. The role of the occupational therapist is to support the patient and help them maintain their usual level of self-care, work and leisure activities for as long as possible. When it is no longer possible to maintain their usual activities, occupational therapists support individuals in changing and adapting their relationship with their physical and social environment to develop new valued activities and roles.


To compare the efficacy and effectiveness of occupational therapy with placebo or no interventions (control group) in patients with Parkinson's disease.

Search strategy: 

Relevant trials were identified by electronic searches of MEDLINE (1966-April 2007), EMBASE (1974-2000), CINAHL (1982-April 2007), Psycinfo (1806-April 2007), Ovid OLDMEDLINE (1950-1965), ISI Web of Knowledge (1981-April 2007), National Library for Health (NLH) (April 2007), Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health (NMAP) (April 2007), Intute: Medicine (December 2005), Proquest Nursing Journals (PNJ, 1986 - April 2007); rehabilitation databases: AMED (1985-April 2007), MANTIS (1880-2000), REHABDATA (1956-2000), REHADAT (2000), GEROLIT (1979-2000); English language databases of foreign language research and third world publications: Pascal (1984-2000), LILACS (1982- April 2007), MedCarib (17th Century-April 2007), JICST-EPlus (1985-2000), AIM (1993-April 2007), IMEMR (1984-April 2007), grey literature databases: SIGLE (1980-2000), ISI-ISTP (1982-April 2007), DISSABS (1999-2000), Conference Papers Index (CPI, 1982-2000) and Aslib Index to Theses (AIT, 1716- April 2006), The Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (Issue 2, 2007), the CenterWatch Clinical Trials listing service (April 2007), the metaRegister of Controlled Trials (mRCT, April 2007), Current controlled trials (CCT) (April 2007), (April 2007), CRISP (1972-April 2007), PEDro (April 2007), NIDRR (April 2007) and NRR (April 2007) and the reference lists of identified studies and other reviews were examined.

Selection criteria: 

Only randomised controlled trials (RCT) were included, however those trials that allowed quasi-random methods of allocation were allowed.

Data collection and analysis: 

Data was abstracted independently by two authors and differences were settled by discussion.

Main results: 

Two trials were identified with 84 patients in total. Although both trials reported a positive effect from occupational therapy, all of the improvements were small. The trials did not have adequate placebo treatments, used small numbers of patients and the method of randomisation and concealment of allocation was not specified in one trial. These methodological problems could potentially lead to bias from a number of sources reducing the strength of the studies further.