Massage, when part of a comprehensive treatment plan, can be a valuable tool to maintain flexibility and range of motion in patients with Parkinson’s Disease.
What is Parkinson's Disease?
Known as the “shaking palsy,” Parkinson’s Disease is a movement disorder that includes the progressive degeneration of nerve tissue. A decrease in the production of certain hormones, like dopamine, that assist nerve transmission signals is also a common problem with this disease.
Parkinson’s is rare in people under 40 years old, but occurs in about 1% of people over 60. Men account for nearly 66% of all diagnosed cases.
Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease
Early symptoms can include:
- Tremors of the head, foot, or hand,
- General fatigue
- Muscle stiffness
- Stooped posture
- Difficulty or delayed movement.
As the disease progresses:
- Changes in gait (length and strength of walking strides)
- Poor balance
- Monotone voice
- “Mask-like” appearance of the face
- Loss of fine motor control
- Sleep disruptions
There are several classes of medications that can boost the production of dopamine, or at least mimic its actions. These medications are generally a temporary fix and have not been proven to significantly delay or reverse the progression of Parkinson’s Disease.
For patients who have not responded well to these drugs, there are newer therapies, including surgery to implant an electrode deep in the brain to stimulate the natural production of dopamine.
Nearly all treatment options include physical, speech, and occupational therapy.
Massage as Supplemental Treatment for Parkinson's Disease
Patients with Parkinson’s suffer from progressive stiffness and rigidity of their voluntary muscles. When a massage therapist is included in the treatment plan, improvements can be made to range of motion and flexibility. Massage also has proven to be valuable in reducing the anxiety and depression that often accompanies the diagnosis.
Great care must be taken with patients who have difficulty controlling their movements. The act of getting on or off a massage table alone can be quite an undertaking. Patients should be assisted at each repositioning.
As long as the massage therapist is working within the client’s comfort level, all modalities may be used.