Case Report on Exploration of Massage, Bodywork and Mind-Body Interventions for Parkinson’s Disease

Posted:Sunday, August 18, 2013

Honorable Mention
Rosi Goldsmith from Portland, OR

Background- Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a disabling, neurodegenerative movement disorder, affecting over 1.5 million Americans. Non-motor symptoms (NMS) and quality of life (QoL) have increasingly become a focus of PD research over the last 10 years.

Objectives- To explore what contributions massage therapy could make to this focus as part of a multi-modal approach to PD treatment.

Methods- A 63 year old male, diagnosed with PD for 5 years, was seen for 56 sessions of 45-90 min. over 36 weeks. Validated, widely accepted Parkinson’s rating scales were administered at study onset, three intermediate points, and conclusion to track motor and NMS and QoL changes, and were supplemented by clinical assessments, narrative reports, medication records, and pain rating scales.

As a proxy measure for parasympathetic response, a fingertip pulse-oximeter monitored heart rate during bodywork interventions of Swedish massage, acupressure, myofascial release and Ortho-Bionomy®. Neurologically targeted exercises and exercises for posture, balance and coordination were developed to complement a home program of yoga routine, mindfulness practice, and meditation.

Results- Posture, gait and balance showed clinical improvements. Overall, graphs of QoL and NMS showed no worsening, or modest gains, but no trend emerged for motor symptoms. Symptoms worsened significantly after adverse life events. A surprising discovery was that sustained massage compressions along paraspinal muscles consistently calmed restless leg syndrome and initiated an overall parasympathetic response. Patient reported sometimes being able to calm tremors and restore normal movement by meditation and mental rehearsal of his yoga routine at home.

Conclusions- These results cannot be attributed to massage alone, considering the multi-modal approach, and medication changes. Although the patient attributes his symptom stabilization to a supportive therapeutic massage relationship, this hypothesis was not investigated. More research may be productive.