Many years ago, I watched my beloved uncle struggle to control his movements and still play piano while he battled Parkinson’s, PD. In January, 2012, I began a year-long course, Functional Neurology for Bodyworkers, FNB. In February, 2012 I met someone with PD who agreed to be part of a case study. I knew massage helps Parkinson’s symptoms with improved relaxation and sleep, reduced muscle stiffness and spasms, and increased joint range of motion. FNB is a relatively new field, with different approaches.
PD involves a deterioration of cells in the brain that produce dopamine, a necessary neurotransmitter for initiating and controlling movement, although nonmotor signs of PD may show up many years before a diagnosis. PD is usually treated with dopamine-related medications. The nonmotor symptoms often become more problematic as PD progresses.
Neuron theory holds that when properly stimulated or activated, within the metabolic rate of the neuron, nerve cells that aren’t functioning well can become healthier, or develop neuroplasticity. A lowered pulse is a parasympathetic response of the autonomic nervous system–“rest and digest” vs. the arousal/sympathetic response of “fight or flight”. A parasympathetic state paves the way for healing, as relaxation improves how nerves signal to neighboring nerves and fragile nerves can rebuild. Monitoring the pulse with a fingertip pulse oximeter thus provides a window to the nervous system’s response to treatment.
I modified the massage and bodywork techniques that were known to benefit Parkinson’s by the results of functional neurological assessments, using the pulse oximeter. By the end of the study, I noticed changes in functioning: improvements in sleep, digestion, coordination, balance, speech and sense of smell. These are mostly improvements in what are called the nonmotor symptoms of PD.
A small case study cannot yield scientifically meaningful results. I have been researching peer-reviewed literature for articles that indicate how to improve the impact that modified massage can make on motor and nonmotor symptoms of Parkinson’s. A series of informal case research studies are currently underway to explore this further. Comments and suggestions are welcome.
Rosi Goldsmith, LMT OR Lic. #16585
2929 SW Multnomah Blvd., Suite 301
Portland, OR 97219