Physical Therapy for Gait, Balance, and Cognition in Individuals with Cognitive Impairment: A Retrospective Analysis

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Rehabilitation Research and Practice



First page number:


Last page number:



© 2020 Jason Longhurst et al. Objectives. The purpose of this study was to determine if a pragmatic physical therapy (PT) program was associated with improved cognition, gait, and balance in individuals with cognitive impairment. This study investigated these associations for individuals with Alzheimer disease (AD), vascular dementia (VaD), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in order to better characterize outcomes to PT for each diagnostic group. Methods. Data before and after one month of physical therapy were extracted from patient records (67 with AD, 34 with VaD, 35 with DLB, and 37 with MCI). The mean number of PT sessions over a month was 3.4 (±1.8). Outcomes covered the domains of gait, balance, and cognition with multiple outcomes used to measure different constructs within the balance and gait domains. Results. All groups showed improvements in balance and at least one gait outcome measure. Those with MCI improved in every measure of gait and balance performance. Lastly, cognition as measured by Montreal Cognitive Assessment improved in individuals in the AD, VaD, and MCI groups. Conclusion. While this retrospective analysis is not appropriate for causal inference, results of one month of physical therapy were associated with decreases in gait, balance, and cognitive impairment in individuals with AD, VaD, DLB<, and MCI. Clinical Implications. While physical therapy is not typically a primary treatment strategy for individuals with cognitive impairment, the results of this study are consistent with the literature that demonstrates improvement from physical therapy for other neurodegenerative diseases. Further clinical and research exploration for physical therapy as a primary treatment strategy in these populations is warranted.


Physical Therapy | Rehabilitation and Therapy



UNLV article access

Search your library