By Susan Santi
Susan Santi is a certified massage therapist and owner of Ahhh Massage in Virginia, MN.
HTF Columnist

I have a client whose spouse has Parkinson’s and they passed along some information to me about the benefits of massage for those with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s disease can be debilitating, causing muscle rigidity, muscle cramps and inflexibility with body movement. Massage is known to help combat Parkinson symptoms, helping to bring improved flexibility and mobility to the body. It can bring much needed relief both mentally and physically to the body affected with this horrible disease.

According to Nicole Cutler, L. Ac., “Parkinsonism (Parkinson’s disease), results in a degeneration of dopamine producing nerve cells in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that stimulates motor neurons, the nerve cells that control muscles. When dopamine production is depleted, the motor system nerves are unable to control movement and coordination. People with Parkinson’s disease have lost 80% or more of their dopamine producing cells by the time symptoms appear. While symptoms may appear at any age, the average of onset is 60 years old.”

An article written by Dietrich Miesler explains how Parkinson’s affects the body. “The stresses put on the body of the person with Parkinson’s disease are similar to stresses endured as the result of sporting activities. The big difference, however, is that exhausting sporting events are typically followed by long periods of rest and relaxation, whereas the musculature of the Parkinson’s individual never has any rest period, suffering structural changes (stiffness and rigidity), which make it palpably different. Geriatric massage, with its manifold effects on the body, is the perfect medium to keep muscles soft and pliable. In five minutes, the long strokes of Swedish massage carry 10 times the amount of blood to the massaged muscle as arrives naturally during a 15-minute rest.”

A side note: Geriatric massage is designed to address the needs of the elderly, with a light and gentle application of the massage strokes/ techniques, helping the elderly to relieve stress level, achieve relaxation and basically improve the quality of their lives.

As time goes on and more studies are done, they all point to the validity of massage and how much it can help someone with Parkinson’s. Massage makes for a great escape from the stresses of having rigid, inflexible muscles by lowering the stress hormones cortisone and raising the serotonin and dopamine.

Do you or someone you know suffer from this awful disease? Maybe massage can be considered as an alternative to their therapy program.