What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease, also known as “Shaking Palsy”, is a progressive degenerative movement disorder affecting nearly 100,000 Canadians. For unknown reasons, nerve cells in the motor part of the brain do not produce enough of a chemical called dopamine, which is important for maintaining balance and posture. When dopamine production is depleted by more than 80%, the nerves of the motor system are unable to control smooth movement and coordination, and the primary signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease arise.
What are the primary Signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?
There are 4 primary signs and symptoms that arise from the disease itself:
1. Resting Tremors – of the hand, foot or head
2. Rigidity – muscle stiffness
3. Slowed movement – Bradykinesia
4. Postural Instability – poor reflexes, coordination and balance.
What are the secondary signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?
Secondary signs and symptoms often arise as a result of the primary symptoms. The most common can include such things as:
- Shuffled gait
- Nonspecific pain and fatigue
- Changes in handwriting (smaller)
- Changes in Speech
- Sleep disorders
- Mental degeneration
- Expressionless or mask-like facial appearance
What can be done to help a patient with Parkinson’s Disease?
Currently there is no known cure for Parkinson’s Disease. The most common form of treatment is aimed at regulating or relieving symptoms by using medication, which usually must be increased as the disease progresses. Speech, physical and occupational therapies are also beneficial in helping to control various symptoms. However, most importantly, massage therapy has little risk of side effects for Parkinson’s Patients and has proven itself to be very useful as a complementary therapy for Parkinson’s Disease.
How Can A Massage Therapy Treatment Specifically Help Parkinson’s Disease Patients?
A Parkinson’s patients muscles are constantly subjected to contractions and tremors which do not often allow the chance for rest and relaxation. This in turn can lead to decreased oxygen to those muscles as well as restrictions or immobility to surrounding joints. By applying long, slow and gentle strokes to those muscles and joints, massage therapy can help to increase blood flow and oxygen, alleviate tension, and effectively facilitate movement. Over time, massage can help to enhance a bit of control and mobility, ease challenges of daily activities, and improve overall quality of life.
Parkinson’s Patients often deal with depression and decreased sleep quality. By using gentle massage techniques to improve circulation and decrease cortisol levels, massage therapy can help with the improvement of sleep, decrease anxiety and provide a better sense of emotional wellbeing.
In 2002, the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami joined forces with Duke University researchers to determine if massage therapy had any effects on a group of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Adult Parkinson’s patients in the study received two, 30-minute massages a week, for five weeks. Upon completion of the study, they experienced improved daily functioning, increased sleep quality and a reduction in stress-hormone levels. These findings imply that massage therapy indeed enhances functioning in Parkinson’s disease patients.
Where do we go from here?
Everyone knows that a massage can feel nice. But for individuals with Parkinson’s disease, a massage can help to alleviate stiffness, rigidity, stress, and sleeplessness, as well as help to feel better overall. At WIN Health Solutions we will develop a customized massage treatment plan and help to show why massage is one of the most commonly used complimentary therapies for easing symptoms in Parkinson’s disease patients.
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Parkinson's Disease Symptoms Can Improve with Massage Therapy. (2018). Parkinson's News Today. Retrieved 8 February 2018, from https://parkinsonsnewstoday.com/2018/01/15/parkinsons-disease-symptoms-can-improve-with-massage-therapy/
The Benefits of Massage Therapy on Parkinson's Disease | Massage Professionals Update. (2018). Massage Professionals Update. Retrieved 8 February 2018, from http://www.integrativehealthcare.org/mt/archives/2007/03/parkinsons_dise.html
Werner, R. (2013). A Massage Therapist's Guide to Pathology (5th ed., pp. 159-161). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.