Parkinson’s is an incurable disease that many of its symptoms have to do with decreased motor skills. Most common symptoms include tremors, muscle rigidity, imbalance, and slow movement. Since each patient displays a different range and severity of symptoms, the treatment for every PD patient is based on his or her symptoms. Conventional treatments include medications, surgery, and general adaptations to the patient’s lifestyle.
Medications and Surgery
Since Parkinson’s disease affects dopamine production in the brain, which causes most motor symptoms, many drugs for treating the conditions aim to mimic the action of dopamine or restore its level in patients’ systems. Such drugs, generally known as dopaminergic, are aimed at reducing muscle rigidity, lessen tremoring, and increase speed and improve coordination of movement. The most effective drug today is the levodopa, which is a natural chemical that is converted to dopamine in the brain. In cases where medical treatments have been exhausted and cease to benefit the patient surgery might be performed. Some surgeries, such as ‘deep brain stimulation’ (DBS), are aimed at blocking certain electrical signals from specific areas in the brain without damaging nerve cells and consequently harming healthy brain tissues. In others, such as the pallidotomy, a tiny part of the globus pallidus in the brain is destroyed by scarring. This is because in some cases this area is overactive and causes a decreased motor activity, scarring that tissue can help relieve movement symptoms such as rigidity and tremoring. Pallidotomy as well as other surgical procedures such as the thalamotomy or subthalamotomy are rarely performed today.
For some people living with Parkinson’s, private therapies and support groups can prove very helpful. On the practical level, meeting people who have similar symptoms as well as their friends and relatives can be a useful resource from which to gain information about the disease and how to deal with it. On the emotional level, while support groups are not for everyone, getting and giving support to people who are going through the same things is very helpful. Finding a good occupational therapist or caregiver to help with everyday activities such as getting dressed or eating is also important, both for the PD patient and to relieve the load on family members. Despite the motor difficulties, it is essential to maintain a certain level of physical activity that can be part of a person’s routine, such as gardening or walking.
The importance of exercise in combating the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is unquestionable. But while dance as therapy is increasing in popularity around the globe it is still not considered a conventional treatment method for people suffering from the condition. However, many people are becoming aware of the benefits of dancing. This is unsurprising, as this activity targets the very symptoms that Parkinson’s creates — both the physical and emotional. On the physical level, dancing helps improve balance, coordination, speed, and shifting positions. On the emotional level, it can help combat depression — a very common accompanying symptom of Parkinson’s patients. The music, movement, human contact, laughter, and exhilarating feelings that come with dancing may not be conventional therapies for a degenerative disease, but are nevertheless extremely effective – as proven by the experiences of people like Rafi Eldor.