Parkinson’s Disease is referred to in the ancient Indian medical system Ayurveda in the name Kampavata. It’s also mentioned in the oldest Chinese medical texts as well as those of the ancient Greeks, Romans and the Old and New Testaments. So it’s clear the disease has been with us for many years.
However it was not until 1817 a detailed medical essay was published on the subject by a London Doctor James Parkinson. His intention was to encourage study of the condition to help those with what he termed the “Shaking Palsy”. Sixty years after the publication a French neurologist named Jean Martin Charcot truly recognised the importance of Parkinson’s work and named the disease after him.
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition. Simply put, it causes problems in the brain that get worse over time. People with Parkinson’s have depleted levels of the hormone Dopamine. It’s not clearly understood why this occurs, but researchers think it’s a combination of genetic and environmental factors causing Dopamine producing cells to die.
Dopamine is a chemical messenger transmitting signals to the part of the brain that controls coordinated movement. When these cells die other movement control centres become unregulated. It’s this disturbance that causes the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.
Initially, the symptoms will be mild, progressing over time. Common Symptoms:
There can also be various other physical, cognitive and psychiatric symptoms ranging from constipation to anxiety.
There's no one size fits all medication -each patient is different - there symptoms can vary drastically. Drugs may target Motor symptoms as well as non-Motor symptoms. Medications dealingl with Motor symptoms target tremor, stiffness and slowness while the non-Motor drugs deal with depression, sleep disturbance and anxiety.
There's the possibility of surgery for those whose symptoms are not responding to medication - Deep Brain Stimulation can relieve symptoms. There's also the option for Stem Cell treatment.
Although currently no cure is available, research is moving forward and medications, treatments both physical and psychological are making progress.
Exercise is accepted to be essential for those suffering the effects of Parkinson’s Disease. Although at present all treatments and therapies can only slow the progression of the symptoms, it’s clear the mind and body connection of Pilates can offer a positive, proactive environment for those affected.
A Pilates programme offers Spinal mobility, Extension, Flexion, Lateral Flexion and Rotation, at the same time Stabilisation of the upper and lower body to help with balance and coordination. Hip mobility, Rotation, Adduction and Abduction relative to gait.
In addition, particularly in a one to one setting the Pilates teacher can offer a calm, safe place for the client to experiment with ranges of motion using the professional Pilates equipment to assist and create support as well as challenge.
The improved strength, mobility, flexibility, coordination and balance will create a confidence in the client that may have been diminishing as the symptoms become more noticeable.
Benefits from a Pilates programme will only become apparent when the client understands the necessity to practice daily, putting the knowledge they're acquiring about their personal physicality, limitations and development to use in their daily activities. Once or twice a-week visit to the Pilates studio will not be enough to ensure lasting results.
The Pilates teacher needs to be of the highest professional standard to help this client. A teacher who can recognise the changes occurring as well as how each visit can present a different challenge both to them and their client, whether that’s physical or emotional.
Without a doubt Pilates is an intelligent choice for those dealing with Parkinson’s disease, in combination with their physician, neurologist, physiotherapist or osteopath, the Pilates teacher is an integral part of the team.
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