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Complementary Therapies for Parkinson’s Disease

Complementary medicine involves using different practices and treatments in conjunction with conventional medicine, such as medication or physiotherapy. Complementary therapies for Parkinson’s disease do not stop the disease but they can relieve symptoms in some people. 

Complementary medicine uses a holistic approach that takes into account all aspects that can affect a person and their body, spirit and soul. 

There are many complementary therapies available today. Some have been carefully evaluated and found to be safe and effective. Others are ineffective or potentially harmful. Some products or practices simply haven’t been studied enough to make a case for or against their use in people living with Parkinson’s disease.

These complementary therapies are generally considered to be more natural. However, this does not make them safe. Approach these new options with caution and discretion to determine which ones are likely to be most effective for your health and well-being.

Speak with your neurologist if you would like to add complementary therapies to your treatment regimen. Some therapies may affect your medication and others may be dangerous, expensive and ineffective.

As suggested in their name, complementary therapies are complementary. They cannot replace conventional medical treatments or the medication you take to manage your symptoms. 

Some therapies can improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and your quality of life when combined with conventional therapies.

Stopping or modifying your medication can be harmful to your health. Do not make any changes to your medication or dosage without consulting your neurologist.

The reasons for adopting one or more complementary therapies are as diverse as the number of users.

Some people find that conventional medicine does not effectively manage their symptoms or that it does not provide a holistic approach to their needs. Others find it to be a good way to take control of their health.

Starting complementary therapies for Parkinson’s disease can also have a more recreational purpose or provide an opportunity to socialize or relax, which in itself is excellent for disease management.

Some of the following complementary therapies are popular in the Parkinson’s community. 

Within the same approach, some therapies have shown benefits while others have not. For example, stimulating the 16th point of the governor vessel meridian using acupuncture can reduce tremors. This does not mean that other therapies are effective or safe.

Some therapies have also been shown to be effective for specific conditions (such as depression) but have never been studied in the Parkinson’s population.

Your neurologist and their team can guide you towards appropriate complementary therapies.

Acupuncture
Acupuncture is the stimulation, usually by means of needles, of specific areas of the skin, mucous membranes or subcutaneous tissues of the human body to improve health or relieve pain.

You can find a professional on the Association des acupuncteurs du Québec website.

Art therapy
Art therapy involves using different types of art to express emotional and physical difficulties.

You can find a professional on the Quebec Art Therapy Association website.

Massage therapy
Massage therapy consists of manual techniques to relieve muscle tension. Some massage therapy techniques, including the Trager approach, are particularly recommended in the management of Parkinson’s disease.

You can find a massage therapist on the federation’s website.

Music therapy
Whether or not you have music skills, music therapy is designed to treat physical and psychological conditions with music.

You can find a professional on the Association québécoise de musicothérapie website.

Naturopathy
Naturopathy aims to achieve optimal health through natural means. It includes nutritherapy (vitamins, minerals, etc.), phytotherapy (medicinal plants), aromatherapy (essential oils), hydrotherapy (water) and more.

You can find a naturopath on the association’s website.

Osteopathy
Osteopaths use muscle and joint stretching and massage techniques to restore the functionality of different parts of the body

You can find an osteopath on the association’s website

Pressotherapy
Pressotherapy is a technique used to improve blood circulation, thereby reducing water retention and leg swelling.

There is currently no existing pressotherapy association.

Reflexology
Reflexology consists of massaging different external points of the body to treat other internal parts of the body.

You can find a reflexology therapist on the association’s website.

Reiki
Reiki therapists channel the body’s healing energy by placing their hands on or near your body.

You can find a professional on the Association canadienne de reiki website.

The therapist you choose is crucial to the success of your disease management. Your decision must be made even more carefully than when you choose any other health care professional who practices conventional medicine. This is because their effectiveness is based on in-depth scientific research. 

To find a practitioner, ask your doctor or a member of their team for suggestions. You can ask other people who are living with Parkinson’s disease, but take their opinions as success stories, not scientific evidence.

Some complementary therapies have an association that oversees the work of their members. You can contact therapists and ask them:

  • Which associations or organizations they are affiliated to
  • The length and cost of treatment
  • The risks of therapy and how they reduce these risks
  • Their expertise with Parkinson’s and the number of patients they have treated
  • The anticipated effects of their therapy on your symptoms

An honest and trustworthy therapist should recognize the limitations of their practice and the beneficial effects that you can gain from it.

Avoid therapists who claim to be able to cure Parkinson’s disease or who suggest that you stop your medication.

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