Complementary Treatments for Parkinson's

A number of modalities and nutritional supplements can help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life for patients who have Parkinson's disease. It is necessary for patients to inform their physician of any over-the-counter medications, herbs, or other supplements that they use on a regular basis, because these substances can interact with medication and drug dosages may need to be adjusted.

Physical therapy can help strengthen and tone underused muscles and give rigid muscles a better range of motion. The goals of physical therapy are to help build body strength, improve balance, overcome gait problems, and improve speaking and swallowing.

Simple physical activity such as walking, gardening, and swimming can improve a patient's sense of well-being. Multiple studies have shown that regular exercise improves the level of function and quality of life for patients, as long as they continue to exercise.

Yoga can improve flexibility and reduce the tendency of patients with Parkinson's disease to assume a stooped posture. The slow flowing movements of Tai Chi help maintain flexibility, balance, and relaxation. The Struthers Parkinson's Center in Minneapolis, which teaches a modified form of Tai Chi, consistently reports benefits achieved by patients in all stages of Parkinson's.

Gentle, soothing massage techniques may provide relief from muscle rigidity and may have some neuromuscular benefit as well.

Support groups provide a caring supportive environment in which patients and their loved ones can ask questions about Parkinson's, expressing their frustrations, and obtain advice about coping with and treating symptoms from people who share the same problem.

Parkinson's appears to progress more slowly in those who remain involved in activities that they enjoyed before the onset of symptoms and in those who engage in new interests.

Publication Review By: Gordon R. Kelley, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2000

Last Modified: 29 Sep 2015