Parkinson’s Disease – Alternative Treatments

Till now, no scientifically proven treatment or method has been discovered to stop, slow or reverse the progression of Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, many people suffering from the disorder have had positive experiences with few non-clinical methods, including Balanced Diet, Physical Therapy, Yoga and relatively new methods like Guided Imagery and Music Therapy. Below mentioned are the commonly used non-clinical methods for PD management.  

Physical Therapy

Physical Therapists specializing in neural disorders calibrate a score to track the symptoms of Parkinson’s. This score, Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), is used to follow the longitudinal course of the disease. A physical therapist evaluates a patient’s severity level based on such criteria and suggests therapy for better posture and trunk rotation.

As per a study by Northwestern University and Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, 2.5 hours exercise in a week may help PD patients improve their mobility impairment and quality of life. Exercises with a focus on resistance and aerobics increase oxygen delivery and strengthen muscles. Regular workout helps in the slowness of movement (Bradykinesia), involuntary movements of muscles (Dyskinesia), Pain and weakness. A research by Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute suggests that stationary cycling exercise results in reduced tremors.

Occupation Therapy

Occupational Therapy (OT) aims at enabling people to complete their everyday tasks without facing difficulty. Being able to perform daily tasks instills a sense of well-being and confidence among PD fighters. This, in turn, saves them from severe depression and anxiety. OT takes help of arm and hand therapy, handwriting aids, work equipment modifications, leisure skill development, manual or electric wheelchair use, and dressing and grooming aids to treat the PD patient.

Speech-Language Therapy

One of the Parkinson’s symptoms is poor breath support which results in slurred and unclear speech. Additionally, Dysphagia (swallowing difficulty) can severely limit a PD patient’s ability to speak clearly. Speech and language therapists specialize in all aspects of communication, including non-verbal communication. With their help, some PD patients are able to resolve communication problems such as difficulty in putting thoughts into words. Vocal cord exercises focusing on sustained single syllables help some patient improve their existing speech competency.

Yoga

Yoga is a popular alternative medicine for Parkinson’s. American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) maintains a list of Yoga postures that energize, strengthen and calm the body. Postures like Mountain Pose (Tadasana), Standing forward bend (Uttanasana) and Warrior Pose (Virabhadrasana) help to reduce stiffness and improve balance and flexibility. They also improve the sense of well-being and hence reduce depression or anxiety (whichever is prevalent).

Music Therapy

Music can produce considerable effects on motor and psychological symptoms of Parkinson’s. It can stimulate the production of neurotransmitters in certain patients, enhancing connections between the auditory and motor systems. This, in turn, can help relax muscles and improve walking and speech.

Visualization Techniques

Guided Imagery is a relaxation technique which concentrates the mind on positive images to reduce stress and anxiety. The method promises to promote healthy growth of neurotransmitters. Since motor symptoms such as tremors can be aggravated due to stress, this relatively new method along with Virtual Realty Training has been beneficial for some patients.

Healthy Diet

No standard diet plan can treat PD, but a healthy and balanced diet can improve the patient’s general well-being. Eating green vegetables and fresh fruits may help keep patients energized. A diet rich in nutrients, such as Omega-3 fatty acids promotes overall health for the patient. Dieticians suggest increasing Fiber intake and drinking the adequate amount of fluids to prevent constipation and low blood pressure, which are common complaints of PD patients.