Recently I had a discussion with a client regarding Micheal J. Fox, he of 80’s hits Back to the Future and the TV show Family Ties. These days he is also recognized as the self-appointed spokesperson for those who suffer from Parkinson’s. Many of us have a relative or know someone that has been affected by Parkinson’s, and most people also seem to have many misunderstandings of how this affects people and what can be done for treatment.
Named for the Doctor who first clinically documented in 1817, it kills the cells that create a chemical called dopamine in the part of the brain (the basal ganglia) that is responsible for balance and co-ordination. Generally it does not occur until mid to late 60’s, but can affect some between 21 and 39, such as our dear Canadian-born Micheal J. The main difference being that the younger group characteristically has twisting movements and tend to respond better to drug therapy.
Parkinson’s often begins as something as simple as more hunched shoulders or a shaky little finger. It can progress into postural changes from contractures, slow shuffling gait and tremors at rest (when the person is attempting to be still), and eventually immobility. Other symptoms can appear such as fatigue, constipation, depression, problems swallowing and speech difficulties. The cause is unknown and there is no cure though research is ongoing, and through the success of symptom treating drugs such as Levodopa, over 50% of of those affected can now live to average life expectancy. It is no longer a disabling death sentence.
I can hear you already- Jennifer, what the heck does massage have to do with a disorder that attacks the central nervous system?? Massage techniques can aid where the body’s functions have become limited- such as poor tissue health by encouraging venous return(blood) and lymphatic flow(waste). Feedback during the treatment is important as there can be sensory changes, in that some areas may be painful that are normally not. Manually moving joints and stretching of the muscles and tissue by the therapist to maintain their range of motion and the clients body awareness is also recommended. This also helps to limit the contractures that can form. Standard abdominal massage can also help with any constipation, all done slowly and gently as to not overstimulate the nervous system. One hour weekly massage treatments are recommended.
What can the Parkinson’s client do on their own? Any movement programs such as Tai-chi and Yoga to help with flexibility, balance and co-ordination. To maintain cardiovascular health, regular walks and gentle exercise programs within the clients tolerance and avoid fatigue.
If you have Parkinson’s, or know someone who does, feel free to contact me at the clinic for a free clinical assessment today.
Yours in health,
Jennifer J. Lamore, BAA, RMT
Registered Massage Therapist Toronto & Mississauga, Ontario