Parkinson’s Disease is a brain disorder that leads to movement issues. While there are many traditional medical treatments to manage symptoms, chiropractic can be an alternative care option for some.
What is Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s Disease (PD, or “shaking palsy”), is a disorder of the brain that leads to movement and coordination problems, as well as tremors. PD is often found in those over age 50, but it can affect younger adults. It tends to run in families, and it is caused by the destruction of the nerve cells that make dopamine. Dopamine is required to send messages in the brain. The disease is progressive, and it is unknown why those brain cells are damaged. PD symptoms may start gradually, but over time they change from stiffness and slowness to difficulty breathing and swallowing, flat affect (no facial expression), muscle pains and movement problems (loss of fine motor functioning, slow movement, difficulty starting motions, rigidity), anxiety, stress, dementia, depression, hallucinations, and other cognitive problems. The most common symptoms associated with PD are the tremors, or shaking. Typically, these are seen in the limbs and head, especially when the patient has fatigue or stress.1
Medications are meant to manage symptoms, are there are no known cures for PD. In general, drugs adjust the levels of dopamine in the brain, but they wear off over time. Patients will end up taking more medication, at higher doses, more often. The side effects of PD drugs can include nausea, hallucinations, diarrhea, vomiting, and delirium. Because PD is a progressive disease, patients may still end up with “stooped posture, frozen movements, and speech difficulties”, which doesn’t necessarily respond to treatments. L-dopa is a common PD drug. There are others to manage tremors, cognitive difficulties, mood disorders, pain, and sleep issues. Patients typically will make “lifestyle changes”, including nutrition and exercise adjustments, participating in physical therapy, and they may require assistive devices and adjustments to their home’s physical environment. Some patients may undergo surgery to alleviate symptoms. Surgical options include deep brain stimulation, tissue destruction in the brain, and stem cell transplants.2
In some recent research, it was discovered that there may be “a causal link between trauma-induced upper cervical injury and disease onset…IUCCA protocol may arrest and reverse the progression of…PD.”3 Other research shows promise for chiropractic manipulations in reducing symptoms and subluxations.4 Patients with this disorder can have their “quality of life” improved by chiropractic care. In one case study, a 63 year old male complaining of tremors, mid-back pain, and anxiety, was treated for the subluxations (especially at the “level of the top bone in the neck, the atlas”). The results were increased energy, the cessation of the mid back pain, and an improvement in the tremors. “Improvement of the Atlas alignment was associated with reduction of most of his Parkinson’s symptoms”.5