Thursday, July 16, 2009

Massage Therapy: Adjusting to Parkinson's Disease Progression

Medical Massage for PD Symptom Relief

Yesterday I was at both the exercise and massage therapy centers to workout and get a Swedish massage. I love getting the massage. The feedback is so immediate.

At every session the massage therapist interviews me for a few minutes about how I'm feeling emotionally and physically. I described to her how I feel about noticing some progression in my condition i.e. a few symptoms manifesting on the right side of my body in the last few weeks, although I noticed none this past week.

What I have noticed in recent weeks is more difficulty getting in and out of the car as well as the bathtub/shower. I told her it was depressing, but she pointed out some symptoms which had improved recently. My left hand no longer forms a claw and the arm is more flexible and relaxed. My voice is lower and stronger. She reminded me that I'm getting this improvement and I'm only taking 2 Parkinson drugs, Azilect and CoQ10...well 3 if you count the DynaCirc CR...which I certainly do.

These days I have to use all my strength to get on the massage table face up. Another strength and mobility/flexibility decline in my condition. I eventually struggled up and over wondering why some things get better while others get worse at the same time. But I know it's because the progression isn't the same in all parts of the body. I'll need to identify the muscles involved in the problematic areas and work on them at the exercise center.

After I've undressed, the massage therapist comes from her office and checks my position on the massage table. She has me make adjustments if necessary, positions the draping sheets and tucks them in.

The massage therapist begins the massage on my neck and shoulders which are usually very stiff. She stands at my head and uses rhythmic, gliding strokes to massage my shoulders and neck. She moves my head to one side then the other. She strokes firmly from the top of my shoulder releasing tension in my neck. I've been doing Yoga exercises for my neck every day and that seems to be helping hold the line.

Next she spreads massage oil on my chest and arms and massages the front of my body with long flowing strokes. The strokes are continuous, flowing one to the next. She spends time on my hands and especially my fingers where I have a light tremor, my first recognized sign of PD. Then she stretches and flexes my shoulders and checks the range of motion through both arms.

With her help I roll chest down - another maneuver once easier but now difficult on the narrow table. Moving around in bed has not been easy for me since before I was diagnosed. While I'm on my stomach she oils my back and massages my shoulders, back, legs and feet alternating with flowing and kneading strokes to reach deeper tissues. She spends more time with the muscles around my knees because that's where arthritis pain bothers me a lot.

After a series of table vibrations or oscillations, she rings the Tibetan bells signaling the massage is over.

Although the painkilling effect of massage is generated by the production of endorphins, my body is deeply relaxed by the skin to skin contact of the massage. The therapist leaves the room while I dress and then returns for a few minutes of debriefing and a glass of water which helps remove toxins released by the action of the massage.

I leave the building and walk more steadily and calmly into the sunshine to the car.


  1. It has been revealed that farm workers who were exposed to pesticides were most likely to develop Parkinson disease. Dependence on organochlorines has been known to be a problem as it includes the infamous DDT and chlordane. US government has banned these chemicals.

  2. Very Interesting article on massage. I have worked with several PD patients in my practice of upper cervical specific chiropractic ( and we have been looking for massage therapist in our areas that cater to PD patients.
    Again Great post!

  3. thanks for the post ur sharing with us Toronto Massage Therapy at VOS Massage Therapy perform high quality massage therapy treatments custom designed for your needs.

  4. Very useful post and I think it is rather easy to see from the other comments as well that this post is well written and useful. I bookmarked this blog a while ago because of the useful content and I am never being disappointed. Keep up the good work.

  5. Yes Regular Massages help people with Parkinson's disease. I would however add to get a light massage! NO deep tissue because it will hurt and be very painful !

    1. While for someone who does not have a neurodegenerative disease, deep tissue massage can be productive, it is contraindicated for PWPs. Melissa P is correct: a thorough relaxing massage can be effective in helping raise dopamine levels, and have been associated a slowing of the disease. You might want to begin with a 15 minute massage and gradually increase the time.


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