Parkinson’s disease is a chronic disorder of the central nervous system that affects almost one million people in the United States. This pathology can be treated with medication or surgery, but there is currently no cure.
Parkinson’s is characterized by the malfunctioning or death of neurons in a part of the brain known as the substantia nigra. The neurons in this area are responsible for the release of dopamine. As the disease progresses, more neurons die and less dopamine is produced. This inhibits the patient’s ability to control his movement. This symptom can present itself as a tremor (uncontrollable shaking), rigidity in the muscles of the limbs, impaired balance or coordination, or slowness of movement.
The effects of Parkinson’s on the patient’s body are similar to the effects of sporting activities, except that the stress of Parkinson’s is ongoing, with no “break” for the patient. As a result, a patient with this disease may experience muscular tension or pain. The symptoms can be relieved with medications that increase dopamine production in the brain. As with all medications, the dopamine boosters come with some side effects, including low blood pressure.
Another down side to medication is that the patient eventually builds up a tolerance to the effects of the medicine. This is when surgical procedures become necessary. Like medication, though, surgery is not a solution or cure. Surgery only targets a specific symptoms.
How Can Massage Help?
It is important for patients suffering from Parkinson’s to understand that massage is only appropriate so long as the patient has feeling in the area being worked over. Otherwise, massage would be considered a local contraindication.
According to research done by the Touch Research Institution at the University of Miami, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are reduced with regular massage therapy. As mentioned earlier, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease cause muscle rigidity. It is well known that massage therapy releases tension in the muscles, as well as any pain caused by this tension. Massage therapy can also help calm the nerves that cause aches and pains as the client deals with the bodily stress caused by Parkinson’s disease.
Massage therapist should work in tandem with the patient’s primary care physician. It be noted that one massage will not be enough to ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Massage should be considered an ongoing treatment for patients with this pathology. It should also be noted that massage is not a cure for Parkinson’s disease, as there is currently no cure. However, massage can vastly improve the patient’s livelihood. Finally, as Parkinson’s patients sometimes have difficulty moving, they may need help getting on and off the table.
According to Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute of Miami, researchers have not yet found a pathology whose symptoms does not improve with massage. If you have been diagnosed with any disease and you’re wondering how massage can help, just ask a massage therapist!
Benefits of Massage Therapy on Parkinson’s Disease by Nicole Cutler L.Ac
What is Parkinson’s Disease by Parkinson’s Disease Foundation
Cover image by WebMD