"The only unavailable choice was whether or not to have Parkinson’s. Everything else was up to me. I could concentrate on the loss. . . Or I could just get on with my life and see if maybe these holes started filling in themselves. Over the last ten years, they have, in most amazing ways. "-From Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, by Michael J, Fox
In addition to medical treatment of PD, there are complimentary therapies and supports that can assist your medication in managing your PD symptoms. Below is a list of some of these strategies.
Since we are not doctors, and cannot recommend any type of medical treatment for diseases, it is important for you to consult a medical doctor for an accurate diagnosis and for treatment of PD. You may even want to consult a specialist such as a neurologist and, perhaps, a special type of neurologist, who specializes in movement disorders.
Massage therapy – when properly administered by a licensed professional, this technique may provide relief from rigidity and other motor symptoms
Tai chi – an ancient form of Chinese exercise that teaches gentle body movements to improve flexibility and balance.
Music therapy (with or without exercise)
Spiritual methods such as prayer/ meditation
Exercise (Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.)
Benefits of Exercise
It is important to maintain realistic expectations when you exercise. You should take into consideration any other health concerns, such as high blood pressure or arthritis and look for exercises that don’t make other problems you have worse.
Feeling more in control of your movements
Improving mood and reducing feelings of isolation
Increasing muscle strength
Achieving better balance (which reduces the frequency of falls, which are a major risk factor in PD)
Reducing gait problems and muscle/joint injuries
Achieving a sense of accomplishment
Maintaining and improving cardiovascular health
Improving sleep (not recommended right before bedtime – might cause insomnia)
People with PD often experience sleep difficulties such as overactive dreams, restless legs, insomnia, and daytime drowsiness. Here are some tips to help you get a good night’s sleep:
Avoid alcohol and caffeine and other stimulants, especially in the evenings.
Avoid oversleeping – sleep just long enough to feel refreshed.
Create a comfortable and peaceful sleep environment.
Limit bright light exposure in your bedroom at night.
Go to bed at the same time each day; follow a regular relaxing bedtime routine.
Minimize fluid intake in the evening before bedtime.
Social Support See our blog on Support Groups. Here is a list of groups you might find helpful:
Recognize symptoms of Depression
Depression commonly presents in people with Parkinson's disease, so it is important for you to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of depression. Generally, you will be experiencing these symptoms for a period longer than two weeks. Keep your health care providers informed of any possible symptoms of depression, so they can consult with you about addressing these symptoms.
It is important to maintain activities of daily living (AOLS) for as long as possible. You can get information on how to do this from resources listed above or consult with your doctor or with an occupational therapist. However, when an activity poses a risk of injury to self or others, it is time to let go of that activity. For example, if your muscle weakness, poor coordination, or visual deficits prevent you being a safe driver, you will need to give up that activity and let someone else do it.
Maintain hobbies and interests
Bring a buddy– you can invite a friend or family member to participate with you and allow him or her to help as needed.
Adaptive Equipment– look for tools to make your hobby easier to do. If this tool is not readily available, consider enlisting a specialist to create an adaptive tool for you. The following organizations may help you in this objective: ABLEDATA, The Adaptive Sports Association, The National Sports Center for the Disabled.
Expand your interests – find new activities that are less challenging or find new ways to participate in the old ones. Just because you find it too difficult to continue with your old hobby, don’t give up on all hobbies. Remember that adaptation is part of life for everyone who ages, not just those with PD. (TEVA Neuroscience, no date)
Bruce McIntyre, in his book, Graceful Transitions, talks about the three Phases of Transitions that people go through when dealing with a chronic illness. I call these transitions the three stages of hope.
Stage One: Hope for a complete cure or that the pain will go away and stay away. This doesn’t always happen.
Stage Two: Hope that the illness won’t get worse. It sometimes does.
Stage Three: Hope you can learn to manage it and carve out a new life for yourself. This can often be attainable. You can look around and find information about you illness- about treatments and programs that can help you function at the highest level possible.
But what happens when you are faced with circumstances that are acute or life-threatening? Where do you go for hope then?
In chapter four of my book, Life on the Deep End, I explain how this happened to me on two occasions. One was in December 2014, when I developed an acute case of cellulitis in my left eye. By the time I got to the ER, the scan showed a mass as large as my eyeball between my left ethmoid sinus and my left eye. I was told by my surgeons that I would need to have the tumor removed, but there was a good possibility that I would not survive the surgery or might be brain damaged. I turned to my faith in Christ. I knew that, regardless of my prognosis, that I served a loving God who would not bring anything into my life that was not going to serve a greater purpose in the long-run. This was a new kind of hope- a transcendent hope. I also knew that His presence would provide me with the peace in my spirit to get me through these horrible moments. As I was praying, I felt this blanket of peace wrap itself around my mind and my body. I was not afraid. The next day, as I was being prepped for surgery, a second scan showed that the tumor was still there. However, moments later when the surgeons operated, the mass had vanished. My doctors still cannot explain what happened.
Two years later I was diagnosed with a massive malignant abdominal tumor and had radical surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to remove it and the surrounding tissue. Again, I reached for my Transcendent Hope. So many people were praying for me for weeks until we returned for the final pathology report. My husband and I drove back to Houston to find our if the cancer had spread. Instead, we found out that the tumor was not malignant, but benign.
I know that the lesson I was learning through these experiences is that God is in control of my circumstances. In my book, I detail many times in which the doctors presented me with outcomes that could or should have ended my life. Yet, the outcome was not in their hands. Putting my faith in God means that I trust him with the outcome of every situation. It may not be the perfect healing that I initially hoped for, but everything has happened for a purpose that transcends what I originally hoped for.