Non-pharmaceutical Parkinson’s disease treatments is an umbrella term that denotes a spectrum of therapies and approaches. These from range from simple and easily applicable techniques through to novel and experimental treatments some of which involve highly complex medical procedures.
As noted in a previous article concerning pharmaceutical Parkinson’s treatments, non-pharmaceutical treatments can be divided into 3 main categories, namely:
- Holistic Treatments.
- Surgical Treatments.
- Unproven Treatments.
The following will outline various non-pharmaceutical treatments for Parkinson’s and this will be followed up with subsequent articles exploring each topic in greater depth.
HOLISTIC PARKINSON’S TREATMENTS
In general, this broad category can be divided into a number of subcategories. However, bear in mind that from an holistic point of view, one’s physical and emotional well being are dynamically interlinked. For example, relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension and spasms thereby improving one’s physical well being. Subsequently, less pain and discomfort produces a better state of mind and studies have shown that emotional well being directly impacts the immune system. Boosting the immune system will therefore improves one’s physical well being…and so the cycle continues.
Therapies aimed at improving emotional well being
An important aspect of this subcategory is aiming to empower the patient so that they can address their worries and concerns with people in a similar position. One’s quality of life can be improved on a practical level by sharing advice and tips but also, being able to chat to others with Parkinson’s can often be very therapeutic; the adage ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ springs to mind. Therefore, included within this area would be things such as:
- Support groups.
- Group therapy and wellness programs.
Moreover, many people desire the opportunity to continue their career for as long as possible. It can be an important element concerning how people view their quality of life. In this regard, optimizing a patient’s ability to work can be achieved through:
- Occupational therapy.
Therapies directed towards improving physical well being
This area covers various physical therapy and exercise programs, such as:
- Those tailored to be undertaken in specific locations or environments e.g. whilst sitting, laying in bed, out walking or when submerged in water etc. The aim is to maintain strength, flexibility and prevent muscle wastage.
- A speech pathologist will be able to ascertain various issues related to the respiratory system, vocal box, associated muscles and general speech mechanism. They can provide advice on tackling other symptoms such as swallowing and choking problems, dribbling or dry mouth. Speech therapy can involve vocal/humming exercises aimed at improving breath and speech control through maintaining and developing abdominal and throat muscles. This can result in better pronunciation and a stronger voice.
- Physiotherapy. Emphasis will often be placed on the face, jaw, stretching, bending and breathing exercises.
- Massage. Aside from providing physical benefits such as relieving muscular tension, aches and pain or helping soft tissue injuries, there are many other advantages of an holistic nature e.g. reduce stress and anxiety, provide a sense of comfort etc.
- Yoga. Improvements to do with body awareness and posture, flexibility and range of motion, better strength and control, as well as improved alertness and sleep patterns are just a few examples of positive traits attributed to Yoga undertaken by Parkinson’s patients.
- Tai Chi is thought to improve balance and motor control for people with Parkinson’s disease. This helps with postural instability and reduces the risk of falling over.
- Relaxation techniques improve both physical and mental well being and can make a difference with disrupted sleep patterns.
Therapies aimed at improving one’s diet
Working with a dietitian can help address a number of common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. For example:
- Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet boosts the immune system. Aside from just feeling better, an healthy immune system can help reduce certain Parkinson’s symptoms e.g. risk of infections such as pneumonia. Furthermore, they may recommend taking supplements and provide specific instructions on how to take them.
- A diet rich in fiber can help regulate the digestive system thereby reducing the common symptoms of constipation and bloating.
- Swallowing and constipation issues can be reduced by cutting food into smaller portions. In addition, the risk of choking can be lessened by avoiding lying down during the first hour after eating.
- They will make the patient aware of avoiding certain foods and ingredients which can interact adversely with conventional Parkinson’s medications e.g. adsorption can be affected by the food consumed (Levodopa should taken at least an hour after eating as high protein levels can reduce its uptake), or by other drugs taken (antacids can impede drug absorption through the stomach).
SURGICAL PARKINSON’S TREATMENTS
Surgical procedures for Parkinson’s disease include:
- Electrode brain implants allow deep brain stimulation (DBS) and this approach is typically employed in the later stages of the condition. It can help with dyskinesia (tremors and involuntary movements) related issues. Pallidal Deep Brain Stimulation and Subthalamic Nucleus Deep Brain Stimulation are examples of this form of treatment.
- Lesioning is the technique of destroying targeted areas of the brain to bring about symptomatic relief of dyskinesia. Examples targeting distinct regions of the brain include Pallidotomy, Thalamotomy and Subthalamotomy.
- Experimental surgical techniques that are still in their infancy e.g. Neurotransplantation using dopamine producing fetal brain cells.
UNPROVEN PARKINSON’S TREATMENTS
This category is reserved for medications not yet proven by scientific evaluation i.e. insufficient evidence of their efficacy. Various substances and compounds have been proposed for having the potential to be effective for Parkinson’s disease, for example:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Fatty acids.
- Free radicals.