Dance – A Moving Therapy for People with Parkinson’s


Life with Parkinson’s can be physically challenging and emotionally demanding. Patients often complain about the slowness of movement and stiffness in muscles and joints. Besides, difficulty with gait and balance is also noticed in the patients that restrict them from walking straight, resulting in frequent falls. What if there is a way to curb down these challenges and combat the disease with unusual therapies like dancing? The idea of it has put forth discussion – “how dance can help people with Parkinson’s”. Many researchers are backing this interesting therapy, and find it promising.

Joseph De Souza, a neuroscientist from Toronto’s York University, has been tracking the brainwaves of dozens of people in Robichaud’s dance classes, along with his fellow researchers. The participants undergo a brain scan before and after the dance class, followed by physical tests to measure the impact of the dance class on their coordination and gait. The findings reveal, ‘Almost every participant notice improvement in movements, mood, and quality of life.”

Parkinson’s, being a neurodegenerative disorder, affects body movement in particular. That being said, difficulty with gait results in shuffling steps. It may also result in freezing episodes. Balancing is another issue that needs attention to reduce falls. It feels important to introduce the benefit of music therapy for Parkinson’s that complements dancing. Music helps relax your muscles and has considerable effects on motor and psychological symptoms of Parkinson’s.  Bringing these points compel for a strong view about dancing that can be helpful in Parkinson’s, as observed earlier. Let’s understand it with an interesting example.

The Leib couple made it their obsession to deal with Parkinson’s the way they considered thoughtful. Michael Lieb was diagnosed with PD 11 years ago. He felt tremors in his right arm and leg. His wife Roslyn became his caretaker until 2 years ago when she was also diagnosed with PD. The main question aroused how would they take care and support each other? Then a nurse suggested dance classes. Now Roslyn Leib, 69, is a dance participant at the Hubbard Street Dance Center in Chicago. When asked about the help that she gets through dance, to deal with Parkinson’s, she says, “It just lifts the spirits”. “It does transport us, to a different planet where Parkinson’s doesn’t matter so much,” she adds further.

Exercise, if done with a fun element involved, can bring about a sea change in an individual’s health. That’s exactly what dance promises to be. It could meet the expectations of many, if not all, who want to fight Parkinson’s symptoms in their own way.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to know if music therapy, dancing, in particular, will be a good add-on to the most prescribed therapeutic treatment for Parkinson’s i.e. Physical Therapy? The answers might suggest a great deal that exercising including dance as a compensatory therapy will be helpful in combating Parkinson’s.  Much has been studied, and there are promising researches underway. This gives a base to convey the benefits of dance as a therapy for people with Parkinson’s and coming times seem groovy for the individuals with PD.

This Blog is contributed by Dr. Rimpy kanwar. She has more than 8 years of working experience in the field of Physical Therapy. Her expertise lies in ortho-neuro and Pulmonary rehabilitation cases. 


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