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managing parkinson's

Parkinson’s Disease is a degenerative neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable tremors, loss of coordination, balance issues, and other symptoms. After a diagnosis of Parkinson’s however, there is much that can be done to reduce the symptoms to maintain a high quality of life and fight the loss of neurons in the substantia nigra region of the brain, which controls dopamine production and the transmission of messages related to movement and coordination throughout the body. Exercise greatly reduces the symptoms and progression of Parkinson’s. Other treatments, such as Deep Brain Stimulation and medication can also be effective (2).

Several notable celebrities have continued to live and work for many years after a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Muhammad Ali for example, was diagnosed in 1984 a few years after he had retired from boxing. Charles Schulz, the Peanuts comic strip writer, lived with Parkinson’s for about half of the 50+ years he wrote comics about Charlie Brown. Singer Linda Ronstadt, MLB pitcher Ben Petrick, and actor Michael J. Fox also found ways to manage their Parkinson’s diagnosis to maintain a high quality of life (3). Fox even created a foundation for Parkinson’s research and provides resources to those looking for solutions to the disease (4).

Exercise is a commonly accepted treatment for not only improving overall health, but also for those with Parkinson’s disease as a means of reducing symptoms. Regular cardio, yoga, or physical therapy can help.

Invigorate Physical Therapy and Wellness recommends some simple hand/wrist exercises to regain dexterity in the hands (5). One exercise involves making a tight fist with each hand then outstretching the fingers for 20 repetitions. Another uses the thumb to tap all of the the fingers on the same hand. Some of the wrist exercises are rotating the outstretched hands up and down and then twisting side to side. Then practice bending the fingers down at the first joint together on both hands all at once. Next bend the fingers from the knuckle to form a table top position. The last exercise is attempting to touch the fingertips to the bottom on the palm and then extending out. All the exercises can be done daily for 20 reps each ideally in the morning.

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