Jackie Hunt Christensen
Attended: Non-Drug Approaches to Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease
"This session covered how some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease might be improved by exercise; physical therapy; speech therapy; and non-drug, cognitive and psychological therapies.
- Exercise: It was reported that exercise can improve motor performance and induce changes in the levels of dopamine and glutamate (a neurotransmitter that help us with learning, memory and other cognitive processes) and also affect the immune system function. Aspects of this type of exercise program focus on the intensity, specificity, difficulty and complexity of the task. All of those aspects make the participant use problem-solving skills. In other words, we’d be forced to think about our movements. More research is needed to determine how long these benefits of exercise last.
- Physical Therapy: This can involve several types of exercises: aerobic, strength training, balance and coordination, and flexibility. Meta-analysis (a comprehensive review of many studies) showed that physical therapy can improve balance, strength, gait (speed as well as stride length) and quality of life. The type of exercise varies for each person, depending on a person’s age, previous experience with that type of exercise and access to any necessary equipment.
- Speech Therapy: Not everyone with PD who has a speech problem is aware of it. The presenter said that speech problems tend to show up around seven years after onset of PD, and swallowing problems occur around 10 years after onset. Studies are being done on the vocal effects of choral singing (singing with a group). Researchers have compared the Lee Silverman Voice Therapy (“Think Loud!”) with speech amplification. Amplification was shown to increase speech intelligibility by 30%.
- Non-drug, Cognitive & Psychological Therapies: Depression is very common in people with PD, but not everyone can tolerate antidepressants. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is one non-drug method that is being considered for people with PD. CBT is a multi-week program in which patients learn to identify thought processes they undergo when upset or anxious, then work with a therapist to come up with ways to address those things."
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