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How Much Do You Know About the Benefits of Birds Nest?
Edible bird's nest is the nest made by the Swiftlet bird of Southeast Asia that is usually prepared as a soup and prized in Chinese culture as a healthful delicacy.
We Get Letters & Email
A House Divided? (May 1 issue) provoked significant response from readers. Here are several of the surprisingly similar comments we received.
5 Tips for Using Pinterest to Market Your Practice
Pinterest is a very popular, but often under-utilized, social media platform where people can bookmark, or "pin," fun and interesting things from all across the internet.
The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine
My Masters thesis was titled, "The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine," which highlighted several reasons why it is hard for these two worlds to mix.
Professional Credentialing and Board Certification: An Ethical Faux Pas
Because of the Affordable Care Act, health care systems are coordinating care through accountable care organizations (ACOs) in order to reduce the cost of care and improve quality of care.
Leg-Length Inequality and Pelvic Fixation: A New Approach to the Negative Derifield (Part 2)
As we noted in our previous article, with a positive Derifield (+D), the doctor observes the reactive (shorter) leg in the prone position that becomes longer or "crosses over" in the flexed position.
Rethinking Musculoskeletal Pain – A Public Health Perspective
The American Public Health Association (APHA) is the world's oldest and largest association of its kind, founded more than 140 years ago and boasting over 25,000 members.
Integrating Art with Clinical Practice for Patients with PTSD: The Artemis Project
Are you restricted by those one-on-one clinic dynamics? Why not join colleagues and clients in experimental group settings? Three of us volunteered to do just that in Austin on behalf of women veteranss from all branches of the service.
Spieth Thanks His Chiropractor After Historic Masters Win
Jordan Spieth didn't just capture the hearts of golf enthusiasts worldwide with his record-setting, wire-to-wire victory at the 79th Masters Tournament.
First Do No Harm?
There's no questioning the frightening nature of breast cancer, which strikes one in eight women in the U.S. – eclipsed only by skin cancer in terms of prevalence.
Giving Vets the Care They Deserve
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers the largest integrated health care system in the United States.
A Poor Choice for Pain Relief
Acetaminophen is the most popular pain reliever in the U.S., accounting for an estimated 27 billion annual doses as of 2009. With 100,000-plus hospital visits a year by users, it's also the most likely to be taken inappropriately.
Reducing the Autogenic Inhibition Reflex: Making Weak Muscles Strong
The autogenic inhibition (AI) reflex is a sudden relaxation of a muscle in response to excess tension.
Animal Acupuncture: A Case Study in the Treatment of Traumatic Injury in the Equine
The rise of animal acupuncture in the U.S. began in the early 1970's as a result of the work by members of the National Acupuncture Association in Westwood, Calif.
Medicine is Clumsy, Don't You Be
All medical systems have clumsiness in them. If the technique isn't, the practitioner is. Everyone in every form of medicine is striving to improve. That is why we call it practice.
Marijuana, Apathy and Chinese Medicine, Part 1
This article was written in response to the unheeded acceptance of marijuana as a harmless substance that potentially does good when used for the medical relief of pain.
Our Biggest Challenges to Compete in Wellness Care
In the first article in this four-article series [May 1 DC], I made the case that chiropractors should either embrace offering lifestyle wellness in their practices or face the possibility of losing their place in the wellness care marketplace.
Green Tea Improves Cognitive Function in Elderly Subjects
Publishing their results in the journal Nutrients in May 2014, researchers showed that drinking the equivalent of 2-4 cups of brewed green tea (or bottled tea) daily improved cognitive function or reduced the progression of cognitive dysfunction in elderly subjects.
The Tide is Rising in the Acupuncture Profession
Former President Ronald Regan said, "When the tide rises all boats float." The tide is rising for the acupuncture profession. Many forces outside the profession are helping the tides to rise.
The Acupuncturist's Problem
I want share with you some observations and insights into what seems to be the most common problem my colleagues in the acupuncture profession struggles with. If you also struggle with this problem, I hope you get a valuable "aha" moment from reading this.
ACA or ICA: Which Best Represents You?
Last June, I was honored to represent Texas ICA members as their representative assemblyman at the ICA Annual Meeting in Kansas City.
PCOM Granted Regional Accreditation
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) recently announce it has received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This achievement reflects five years of hard work on the part of faculty, staff, and students.
April, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 04
How to Help People With Parkinson's
By Ben Benjamin, PhD
Those readers familiar with my column will know that my articles typically deal with pain and injury conditions. This month, I'm excited to address a very different type of ailment, Parkinson's disease (PD), and a type of exercise therapy that can dramatically reduce the symptoms of this disorder.Seeing the effectiveness of this work with clients has been a wonderful surprise and a great learning experience, as well as being deeply gratifying.
What is Parkinson's Disease?
Nearly one million people in the United States are living with PD, a chronic, progressive, neurological disorder with no known cure. Most PD is idiopathic (of unknown cause), but some cases are thought to be caused by genetic factors or exposure to environmental toxins.
PD affects the brainstem, the lowest part of the brain, which connects directly with the spinal cord. Specifically, it affects the neurons (nerve cells) in an area called the substantia nigra. When they are functioning properly, these neurons produce dopamine, a chemical responsible for transmitting movement-related messages. In a person with PD, 60 to 80 percent of those cells become damaged and no longer produce enough dopamine. As a result, the person begins losing the ability to initiate and control their movements.
While brain scans can reveal whether a person's substantia nigra is damaged, there is still no single test or exam that proves the presence of PD. The primary indicators of the disease are four characteristic symptoms: tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), and postural instability. As the disease progresses, these movement conditions ultimately result in paralysis. Additional symptoms often associated with PD include fatigue, sleep disorders, cognitive impairment, depression, speech problems, gastrointestinal issues, impulsive behaviors and pain. The development and advancement of PD is somewhat of a mystery and varies by person. For instance, although tremors are commonly a primary symptom, some individuals experience no tremors but instead have problems with balance. While some people quickly become severely physically disabled, others live with a much slower disease progression over 20 to 30 years.
Treatments for PD vary depending on the stage of the disease and the symptoms the individual is experiencing. The medications currently prescribed do not reverse symptoms but can slow their progression. Unfortunately, some drugs may lose their effectiveness over time, cause an allergic reaction, or cause disconcerting side effects, such as dsykinesia (sudden involuntary movement). However, in many cases, finding the right combination of medications can dramatically improve a person's quality of life.
In cases where medication is not sufficient, PD is sometimes treated with deep brain stimulation (DBS). This is a surgical procedure in which a neurostimulator (essentially a "brain pacemaker") is implanted in the brain. The device sends electrical impulses to the specific areas of the brain that control movement, while also blocking the abnormal nerve impulses that people with PD often experience. It can sometimes take up to three months for this treatment to significantly reduce symptoms, but the success rates are high.
In addition to pharmaceutical and surgical treatments, speech and physical therapy are usually helpful. Physical exercise in particular appears to help some of the movement symptoms by improving balance and flexibility and reducing joint stiffness.
As an experienced therapist, I concluded long ago that there was little that hands-on practitioners could do for people with degenerative neurological conditions such as PD. I'm happy to say that over the past few years, I've been proven wrong. As increasing numbers of massage therapists and bodyworkers are discovering, active isolated stretching (AIS), can be enormously helpful in reducing PD symptoms and restoring normal motor function.
Several aspects of AIS help to explain its unique ability to provide neuromuscular benefits. First, every AIS stretch includes a gentle assist. At the end of the client's active range of motion, the practitioner provides just enough assistance to push slightly beyond what the person could do on his or her own, typically adding two or three degrees with each repetition. This means that the muscles are continually moving into new territory. The brain-muscle connection keeps learning to do something new and different, which means new neural pathways are always being created.1
In addition, the stretches in AIS are active, rather than passive. Although the practitioner supports and assists the stretch, each movement is initiated by the client. This further reinforces the connections between the brain and the muscles.2 Repetition of the stretches also promotes nerve development. Instead of a single stretch held for a prolonged period of time, AIS involves six to 12 repetitions of each movement, performed for just two seconds.
Another relevant factor is the reduction of muscle spasticity, which is excessive tone in a muscle that leads it to involuntarily contract when it is stretched or lengthened. It can vary in severity from mild muscle stiffness to severe, painful spasms. In many cases, AIS can effectively resolve spasms and lessen spasticity.
Beyond these specific neuromuscular effects, some of the more general benefits of AIS are very helpful for individuals with degenerative neuromuscular diseases. AIS helps restore the supply of oxygen and nutrients to chronically contracted, blood-starved tissue. Some of the most affected tissues in Parkinson's patients are the "two joint" muscles that act across more than one joint. These include the hamstrings and rectus femoris (hip and knee joints); gastrocnemius (knee and ankle joints); and the psoas (hip joint and multiple joints in the low back). AIS allows for focused stretching on each of these muscles, working toward restoring normal posture and gait. After flexibility has been restored, the focus shifts to building strength through Active Isolated Strengthening.
My First Client With Parkinson's Disease
It's one thing to have a theoretical understanding of how AIS can reduce neuromuscular symptoms; it's quite another to see this in action, with real people who are suffering from progressive degenerative disorders. When I first heard that AIS could help clients with PD, multiple sclerosis, and other neuromuscular conditions, I was extremely skeptical. Only after seeing dramatic improvements in my own clients did I fully accept that this was possible.
My first client with PD, whom I'll call Mary, was a college professor whose symptoms had begun four-and-a-half years earlier. After receiving a critical evaluation from one of her advisees that she thought was unfair, she became distressed and started shaking. This is common; while life stresses do not cause PD, the first signs of the disease often occur during a stressful event. Although she had no problems with balance, she experienced both tremor and rigidity, which interfered with her daily life.
I began treating Mary with hour-long AIS sessions, twice a week. She began to feel increasingly looser, stronger, more flexible, and less rigid. Within about three months, there was a drastic reduction in her symptoms. Previously, her right foot had dragged, and now she could lift it up, even on days when she was under stress. For several years, she hadn't been able to brush her hair with her right hand; now she could do that regularly. She also credits AIS with eliminating an extreme, acute pain in her arm and an annoying pain in her fingers and toe joints, as well as with improving her ability to write. As the years went by, her writing had become smaller and smaller, and she had lost the capacity to write "N"s and "M"s. After several sessions, she could write an "M". Currently, she can write almost as well as she could five years ago.
The AIS work also seems to have affected Mary's sleep. For four years, she had experienced severe sleep troubles that would cause her to get up in the middle of the night, even with the help of medicine. A month and a half after starting AIS treatment, she began sleeping through the night. After about three months, she told me that for the first time in years, she had woken up feeling truly rested and refreshed. Both she and her doctor (a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders) believe that this improvement is due to AIS. Another benefit was being able to halve the dosage of a medication she was taking, which made her sleepy. Before Mary started with AIS, her doctor wanted to put her on the strongest possible medication. After seeing the progress she was making, he decided to postpone this measure.
One of the most inspiring changes to witness was that as Mary's symptoms decreased, she regained her self-confidence. Because her tremors have diminished significantly, to the point where they are usually unnoticeable by others, she is less self-conscious in stressful meetings or other public interactions. (Mary was impressed when her neurologist told her that her PD could be noticed only during a physical exam performed by a specialist.) She also feels much more comfortable eating with her right hand in public than she had in many years.
Mary has participated very actively in her own recovery. I taught her AIS stretches and strength-building exercises for her neck, arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet and toes, and she has continued to do these regularly at home. When she feels any pain coming back in her arm, she does the arm exercises right at that moment, and it goes away again.
In this way, I have found AIS work to be empowering for Mary and for other individuals with neurological conditions (including multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy). It is also empowering for me. It has given me the ability to help an entirely new set of clients who don't respond to the other forms of treatment I offer. I find it exciting to see more and more massage therapists and other health practitioners learning these valuable skills.
Click here for more information about Ben Benjamin, PhD.
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