Alternative treatments for Parkinson's Disease

Acupuncture and Hypnotherapy?

As yet there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease but there’s certainly no shortage of alternative treatments and therapies to help people cope with the condition.

These are usually non-traditional and non-medical treatments, which don’t have the benefits of scientific research and rigorous controlled trials. That doesn’t mean that they are a waste of time – in fact the medical profession supports many of these therapies as a complement to more conventional treatments for Parkinson’s. They may not cure the condition but many sufferers say various alternative therapies give them a better quality of life both mentally and physically.

Acupuncture

This is a key element of a holistic system of Far Eastern medicine, which has been used for centuries in China. Fine needles are inserted in various points around the body to correct any imbalance in the flow of energy. Only anecdotal evidence exists that acupuncture is beneficial to those with Parkinson’s. The medical journal Movement Disorders (www.movementdisorders.org) conducted a trial into the effectiveness of acupuncture on a wide range of Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Researchers found no improvement other than in quality of sleep.

Hypnotherapy

This involves putting a person into a state of deep of relaxation. For some people it can help control pain and make them feel as though they’re in control of the disease. It has some reported benefits in improving sleep and depression. Again this is anecdotal and there is no clinical proof.

Massage

The benefits of massage have long been recognized by people with Parkinson’s. It can ease joint and muscle stiffness caused by the symptoms. It’s also a stress buster.

Homeopathy

This type of alternative treatment involves using a small amount of a specific ingredient to boost the immune system. Cuprum has been found to have a benefit in relieving cramps in some people with Parkinson’s. However the effectiveness of homeopathy in treating Parkinson’s patients has yet to be proved.

Yoga/Meditation

It’s widely acknowledged that Yoga improves flexibility, strength and balance and it can give Parkinson’s disease sufferers better posture. People who practice yoga and/or meditation report feeling less stressed and having a sense of psychological well being. In a Parkinson’s Disease Society (www.parkinsons.org.uk) survey on complementary therapies, yoga and meditation were rated the most beneficial with 95% of participants reporting some improvement in their symptoms.

Herbal Medicines

No herbal medicine has been clinically proven to lessen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease although some herbs have been found to be useful in other conditions associated with the disease. Ginko biloba can help people with concentration and sleep problems; passionflower has proved effective in combating insomnia and agitation; and evening primrose oil can help to reduce tremors because it contains naturally occurring levodopa (a drug widely prescribed to treat tremors in Parkinson’s patients).

A placebo-controlled trial involving extract of Banisteriopsis caapi indicated that the herb can help to improve motor function.

Tai Chi

This form of martial art aims to co-ordinate mind and body and has been proven to help with balance, posture and breathing.

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