Today’s post comes from Marisa, a bright and skillful student with a passion for helping others. She has a personal connection with Parkinson’s Disease and wanted to contribute to NeuroChangers by sharing her story and improving Parkinson’s awareness. Enjoy!
With spring in the air and flowers soon to blossom, it is time we recognize the red tulip as the international symbol for Parkinson’s disease. Did you know that April is Parkinson’s awareness month? Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder which causes a deficiency of dopamine levels in the brain.
There are several symptoms associated with the disease including, but not limited to, tremors, rigidity, postural instability, slowed speech and movement, and memory loss. Daily tasks such as eating, dressing, walking and even communicating can become a challenge for Parkinson’s patients.
According to the Parkinson’s Society of Canada, there are over 100,000 Canadians living with the disease. However it is important to recognize that the lives and routines of family members and caregivers are impacted as well. This is true for myself, as for the past 10 years I have journeyed with my grandfather as he progresses through the stages of Parkinson’s. I have lived with my grandparents all of my life. I have watched my grandfather change from an outgoing, funny, community involved, football playing man to one who is bedbound, rigid, and often unable to manipulate his spoon and fork in order to feed himself. This is the current reality for my grandfather; however everyone progresses through the stages of Parkinson’s at a different pace. Watching my grandfather move through the stages of Parkinson’s has sent me on a rollercoaster of emotions. It is because of him and other people I have met living with the disease that I have become passionate in the pursuit to uncover alternative therapies for treating the disease.
You’ve gotta keep movin’ and grooving’
Through research and first hand experiences with my grandfather, I have come to believe that one of the best ways to decrease the severity of Parkinson’s symptoms is through movement! Movement in the form of dance, aerobic exercise, resistance training, stretching, singing, and more, are methods currently used to help Parkinson’s patients maintain functional independence while performing their daily tasks.
As Parkinson’s patients incorporate movement into their daily routines, they activate their brain and nervous system. Researchers propose that the activation of the brain and nervous system has the potential to stimulate neural repair and neuroplasticity. When this occurs, the brain forms new connections and re-patterns itself, potentially heightening the persons’ ability to perform both motor and non-motor tasks.
The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiologists (CSEP) presents four categories from which Parkinson’s patients should formulate their movement programs.
The first is aerobic activity, which promotes continuous rhythmic movement of large muscles of the body. In doing so, Parkinson’s patients’ increase the speed at which they are able to perform tasks, as well as reduce stiffness in muscles and joints.
Secondly, strengthening exercises are recommended in order to help Parkinson’s patients maintain good posture and also to help increase their overall muscular strength and walking speed.
The third component is flexibility, which can increase overall mobility, range of motion and reduce muscle and joint stiffness.
Finally, CSEP recommends that balance activities are incorporated into a daily routine as they help to correct and maintain good posture as well as promote stability. For Parkinson’s patients, integrating movement into a daily routine can make a world of a difference. However it is important to remember that being consistent with the daily routine is just as important in order to reap the benefits of movement.
“Good, good, good, good vibrations”
The Beach Boys had it right when they sang about good vibrations! Another therapy option which has proven to be of benefit to Parkinson’s patients is the use of Whole Body Vibrations. Through sound waves, Whole Body Vibration therapy can improve the motor skills of those living with the disease. Specifically, Whole Body Vibration has helped decrease the severity of a persons’ tremor and rigidity, and also helped to increase stride length. A link has been provided at the end of this blog if you would like to find out more information regarding Whole Body Vibration therapy.
This month when you see a red tulip remember that Parkinson’s disease is a reality for many Canadians. Being knowledgeable about the disease and different treatment options can help to reduce the impact of Parkinson’s disease on a person’s life and his or her loved ones. I have found the Parkinson’s Society of Canada to be an extremely useful resource. The following link can provide you with insight on further inquiries you may have and also connect you with local support groups.
I hope you have a tu-li-pic April!