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Looking at What Helps With Parkinson’s Disease

12 Apr

Hello, everyone.

Cheryl tells us this is Parkinson’s Month.  As most of you know, PD is a fairly common neurological disease that affects a small area of cells in the mid-brain called the substantia nigra.  When these cells degenerate, there’s a reduction in levels of the neurotransmitter, dopamine.  Andy Weil suggests that PD may also be related to deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids.

The most familiar symptoms are tremors in hands, arms, legs, jaw or face; a generalized slowness or stalling of movement (bradykinesis); stiff limbs; rigid facial expressions; low-volume speech; problems with balance or gait; and sleep disturbances.  Depression often precedes the onset of these physical signs, and mental function can sometimes deteriorate in very advanced cases.  Many people can stay in very good shape for years with this.  So far, there’s no cure for it, but its progress can be slowed down and new research results and discoveries are happening all the time.

Helpful drugs like L-Dopa (Levodopa) convert to dopamine in the brain and a medicine like Sinemet (Carbidopa) prevents the L-Dopa from being broken down before it reaches the brain.  Some people get a lot of benefit from deep brain stimulation (VIM implantation) but it doesn’t work for everyone.

Recent CAM studies* have shown that

    1. That relaxation guided imagery reduces tremor;

    2. That active music therapy (choral singing, voice exercises, rhythmic movement, etc) combined with physical therapy improves speed and quality of movement and some cognitive tasks too; 

    3. That qigong gets mixed results; 

    4. Acupuncture gets lackluster results as well (so far);

    5. Moderate aerobic training helps with endurance; 

    6. Ditto neuromuscular massage therapy for motor skills;

    7. And hypnosis is looking very promising for many symptoms, but hasn’t been tested beyond the onesie-twosie stage in parkinsons.  

    When I was working on our guided imagery for Parkinson's, I was lucky enough to get help from the Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area, collecting input and insights from professionals and the many support groups run by my good friend and colleague, Leon Paparella, a group worker of the highest order, who also happens to have early onset PD.  Without help like this, the imagery would have had no meat on its bones.  I’m grateful.

    If any of you want to look up the holistic health studies or show the citations to your docs, I’m listing them for you below here.  And the relaxation guided imagery study (my favorite, needless to say) is featured in this week’s Hot Research.
    Citation: *Tamir R, Dickstein R, Huberman M. Integration of motor imagery and physical practice in group treatment applied to subjects with Parkinson's disease. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. 2007 Mar; 21 (1): pages 68-75. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Citation: Schlesinger I, Benyakov O, Erikh I, Suraiya S, Schiller Y.  Parkinson's disease tremor is diminished with relaxation guided imagery. Movement Disorders. 2009 Oct 30; 24 (14): pages 2059-62.
    Citation: Pacchetti C, Mancini F, Aglieri R, Fundarò C, Martignoni E, Nappi G. Active music therapy in Parkinson's disease: an integrative method for motor and emotional rehabilitation. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2000 May-Jun; 62 (3): pages 386-93. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Burini D, Farabollini B, Iacucci S, Rimatori C, Riccardi G, Capecci M, Provinciali L, Ceravolo MG.
    A randomised controlled cross-over trial of aerobic training versus Qigong in advanced Parkinson's disease. Europa medicophysica. 2006 Sep;42(3): pages 231-8.

    Citation:  Craig LH, Svircev A, Haber M, Juncos JL.  Controlled pilot study of the effects of neuromuscular therapy in patients with Parkinson's disease. Movement Disorders. 2006 Dec; 21 (12): pages 2127-33.
    Citation: Eng ML, Lyons KE, Greene MS, Pahwa R.  Open-label trial regarding the use of acupuncture and yin tui na in Parkinson's disease outpatients: a pilot study on efficacy, tolerability, and quality of life. J Altern Complement Med. 2006 May; 12 (4): pp.395-9. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

    Cristian A, Katz M, Cutrone E, Walker RH.
      Evaluation of acupuncture in the treatment of Parkinson's disease: a double-blind pilot study. Movement Disorders. 2005 Sep; 20 (9): pages 1185-8.

    Wain HJ, Amen D, Jabbari B.
      The effects of hypnosis on a parkinsonian tremor: case report with polygraph/EEG recordings. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 1990 Oct;33 (2): pages 94-8.

    OK, that’s it for now.  Take care and be well.

    All best,

    Belleruth Naparstek

    Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award