When dealing with a progressive disease like Parkinson’s it’s good to explore all options of treatments as medicines such as dopamine agonists and Levodopa gradually wear off and symptoms become more pronounced and debilitating. One form of treatment that can supplement the treatment of Parkinson’s disease is massage therapy. Recent research has shown that regular massage therapy can help patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease improve in their daily functions, sleeping abilities, self-confidence, walking, and well-being, as well as decrease their overall stress levels.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (rigidity, depression, fatigue, etc.) are conditions that massage therapy has been proven to relieve. The disease is a central nervous system disorder, where dopamine is not produced or received correctly. This failure of dopamine transmission leads to rigidity of muscles, poor balance, and fatigue. Collectively these symptoms can lead to depression, isolation, and low-self esteem. As I have written in previous articles(1) massage therapy can help relieve many of these symptoms in all patients, whether they have Parkinson’s or not.
It should therefore come as no surprise that massage therapy has been shown to help lessen these symptoms in patients that do have Parkinson’s disease. In one study performed in 2002(2), adults with Parkinson’s disease were given either muscle relaxation classes or massage therapy twice a week for the course of five weeks. While both groups of patients showed improvement, the group that received massage therapy showed higher levels of improvement in performing their daily activities and in their sleeping abilities. This was recorded in observations by the researchers as well as in assessments by the patients themselves. Urine samples of these patients also showed a significant decrease in the amount of stress hormones that were registered at the beginning of the study.
A separate study performed in 2005(3) showed that massage helped boost the self-confidence, well-being, walking abilities and performance of daily living activities in a group of seven patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease who were monitored while receiving eight one-hour, full body massage therapy sessions over the course of eight weeks. These positive results were once again registered by the researchers performing the study as well as from assessments conducted by the participants of the study themselves. This suggests that while massage leads to measureable biological and chemical improvements in the condition of patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, the patients themselves can actually feel this difference tangibly in their everyday life.
With more than 500,000 people currently suffering from Parkinson’s disease and its symptoms – and 50,000 new people contracting Parkinson’s disease annually – further exploration of massage therapy as a complementary way to treat the symptoms of the disease should be taken up by researchers – and by the patients themselves.
(1) For massage’s benefits in regards to self-esteem, see: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1963752/massage_offers_therapeutic_benefits.html?cat=5
For massage’s benefits in regards to the treatment of muscle rigidity and depression, see: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1931230/the_benefits_of_therapeutic_massage.html?cat=68
For Massage’s benefits in regards to fatigue and insomnia see:
(2) Parkinson’s disease symptoms are differentially affected by massage therapy versus progressive muscle relaxation: A pilot study. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 6, 177-182. Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Largie, S., Cullen, C., Beutler, J., Sanders, C. Weiner, W., Rodriguez-Bateman, D., Zelaya, L., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (2002)
(3) A pilot study of therapeutic massage for people with Parkinson’s disease: the added value of user involvement. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice Volume 11, Issue 3, August 2005, Pages 161-171. Charlotte Paterson, Jeffrey A Allen, Margaret Browning, Gillian Barlow and Paul Ewings