Massage for Parkinson’s Disease

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease, also known as “Shaking Palsy”, is a progressive degenerative movement disorder affecting nearly 100,000 Canadians. For unknown reasons, nerve cells in the motor part of the brain do not produce enough of a chemical called dopamine, which is important for maintaining balance and posture. When dopamine production is depleted by more than 80%, the nerves of the motor system are unable to control smooth movement and coordination, and the primary signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease arise.

Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Parkinson’s disease signs and symptoms can be different for everyone. Early signs may be mild and go unnoticed. Symptoms often begin on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.

Parkinson’s signs and symptoms may include:

  • Tremor. A tremor, or shaking, usually begins in a limb, often your hand or fingers. You may rub your thumb and forefinger back and forth, known as a pill-rolling tremor. Your hand may tremble when it’s at rest.
  • Slowed movement (bradykinesia). Over time, Parkinson’s disease may slow your movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your steps may become shorter when you walk. It may be difficult to get out of a chair. You may drag your feet as you try to walk.
  • Rigid muscles. Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of your body. The stiff muscles can be painful and limit your range of motion.
  • Impaired posture and balance. Your posture may become stooped, or you may have balance problems as a result of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Loss of automatic movements. You may have a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including blinking, smiling or swinging your arms when you walk.
  • Speech changes. You may speak softly, quickly, slur or hesitate before talking. Your speech may be more of a monotone rather than have the usual inflections.
  • Writing changes. It may become hard to write, and your writing may appear small.

Study Finds Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms Can Improve with Massage

Massage therapy has been proven to improve a patient’s day-to-day activities, sleeping habits, walking, stress, and more. Rigidity, stiffness, fatigue, and other symptoms have also been proven to get relief from this treatment. If these symptoms aren’t addressed, depression, poor self-esteem, and isolation can set in or get worse.

One study showed that massage helped boost self-confidence, well-being, walking abilities, and performance of daily living activities in a group of seven patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. In 2002, the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami joined forces with Duke University researchers to determine if massage therapy had any effects on a group of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Adult Parkinson’s patients in the study received two, 30-minute massages a week, for five weeks. Upon completion of the study, they experienced improved daily functioning, increased sleep quality and a reduction in stress-hormone levels. These findings imply that massage therapy indeed enhances functioning in Parkinson’s disease patients.

What Should You Expect at a Massage Appointment?

Massage aims to stimulate the body through the skin, the body’s largest sensory organ. It is usually administered by hand (but it can also be given using the elbows and feet) and can be applied to any part of the body to heal injury, relieve psychological stress and tension, improve circulation, manage pain, relax muscle spasms and eliminate waste and toxins from the body.

There are many different massage techniques. Some are gentle, aiming to trigger the release of endorphins (the body’s own painkillers) and promote a sense of relaxation and wellbeing. Other techniques are more vigorous to help stretch uncomfortable muscles, ease stiff joints and so improve mobility and flexibility.

Massage should not hurt, although you may experience some discomfort if pressure is applied. It is not suitable if you have certain medical conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, damaged blood vessels, bleeding disorders or you take blood thinners such as Warfarin. It is not suitable if you have weakened or fractured bones. If you have bruising or wounds you should wait for these to heal before having a massage.

Massage for Parkinson’s Symptoms Can Work in Two Ways:

A mechanical action in which the muscles and soft tissues of the body have pressure applied to them or are stretched using specific movements. This can help in breaking down ‘knotty’, fibrous tissue, keeping joints loose and connective tissue in good repair.

A reflex action in which massaging one part of the body has an effect on another part, for example massaging the neck can help with back pain, or massaging the lower back can help with leg pain. This works because nerve pathways connect various parts of the body and so massage can have a ‘knock on’ effect.

Massage benefits may include:

  • Reduced stress, anxiety and depression
  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced constipation
  • Improved flexibility and mobility
  • Improved circulation and elimination of waste and toxins
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Greater sense of self-awareness and well being
  • Improved vitality

These benefits can obviously be enjoyed by carers and family too.

Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

You can easily schedule your next appointment by calling our office at (813) 298-5603 or by booking online.