The Benefits of Massage Therapy on Parkinson’s Disease Parkinson’s disease is a fairly common progressive degenerative central nervous system (CNS) disorder. Affecting approximately one million people in the U.S., Parkinson’s disease is a dysfunction in the basal ganglia, an area of the brain that controls voluntary movement. Characteristic symptoms of this chronic, progressive neurodegenerative movement disorder include tremors, rigidity, slow movement (bradykinesia), speech changes, poor balance, and difficulty walking (called parkinsonian gait).
The benefits of massage therapy have long been recognized by people with Parkinson’s disease. Because Parkinson’s disease typically causes muscle stiffness and rigidity, bodywork’s ability to alleviate joint and muscle stiffness makes it a logical choice. As long as the client has sensation in the area being worked on, it is safe for bodywork. Communication with the client throughout the bodywork session will ensure a positive experience. Parkinson’s disease will not be completely resolved with bodywork alone. Work with your massage therapist only in coordination with your primary physician and occupational therapist. Since uncontrolled movement is characteristic of this disease, getting on and off a massage table may pose safety issues. Extra cautionary measures to ensure the client’s safety must be taken by your therapist.
According to a 2002 study conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, along with staff from the university’s neurology department and Duke University’s pharmacology department, Parkinson’s disease symptoms are reduced by massage therapy. In this study, the group of adults with Parkinson’s disease who received two massages a week for five weeks experienced improved daily functioning, increased quality of sleep and decreased stress-hormone levels. The massage consisted of 15 minutes in the prone position, focusing on the back, buttocks, ribs, thighs, calves and feet; and 15 minutes in the supine position, focusing on the thighs, lower legs, feet, hands, forearms, upper arms, neck, face and head. The study’s authors reported, “These findings suggest that massage therapy enhances functioning in progressive or degenerative central nervous system disorders or conditions.”
Parkinson's Awareness Month
Every 6 minutes, someone will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in the U.S. This April, for Parkinson’s Awareness Month, we want everyone to #Take6ForPD – take 6 minutes to raise Parkinson’s awareness – so that you and your loved ones can live Better Lives. Together.