Parkinson’s disease is a condition that impacts a patient’s movements, impacting even the smallest parts of someone’s day. However, many patients are combatting their symptoms with treatments and increasing their quality of life. To effectively treat the disease, it’s important to understand what it is and how it impacts the body’s nervous system.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder that affects the nervous system. It is a progressive disorder, which means that symptoms start slowly and then progress until regular daily movements are impacted. Parkinson’s does not have a cure, but some treatments can slow the progression of the disease or, in some cases, regain mobility losses.
According to the National Library of Medicine, the first recorded case of Parkinson’s disease was written in 1817 by James Parkinson. Throughout the 1800s, more was discovered about the disease, helping further to define it against other movement diseases like multiple sclerosis. Drugs that impacted the neurological behavior of patients were tested and administered as early as the 1800s and paved the way for modern therapies.
What is the nervous system?
The nervous system connects impulses in your brain to the movement in the rest of your body. It controls conscious movements like walking and moving your hands. The nervous system is also responsible for unconscious movements like breathing and blinking. All unconscious body systems and processes are also controlled through the nervous system, like digestion and puberty.
A network of nerves throughout your body sends electrical signals to other cells through this system. The information sent through those signals is interpreted by your brain, which then sends out response signals. Parkinson’s disease impacts your brain’s ability to interpret and send response signals. This results in issues controlling movement and can progress to include unconscious processes.
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is caused by a breakdown of the neurons in the human brain. Patient’s with the disease suffer from a lack of the chemical dopamine, which works as a messenger in your brain, delivering different signals within your nervous system. As neurons die, they fail to make enough dopamine to support the signals your nerves send and receive.
Scientists are currently unsure what ultimately causes this neuron breakdown, leading to the disease. There is some evidence that it could be genetic, as some gene variations seem to increase the risk of Parkinson’s. However, there could also be environmental triggers that increase the risk of Parkinson’s later in life.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease impacts your brain’s ability to send signals throughout the rest of your body. It can manifest in some of the following symptoms:
Tremors are small jerky movements that occur in your extremities. They are uncontrollable and can impact your ability to hold or balance items securely. Tremors typically occur in your hands and fingers but can also occur in your arms and legs, making walking difficult. Shaking can decrease when performing tasks, making occupational therapy an effective tool against this symptom.
Slowed movements, sometimes called bradykinesia, can include taking smaller steps when walking or making it more difficult to complete specific daily tasks like sitting down and standing up. This symptom can also display itself through dragging or shuffling feet.
Stiff muscles can occur when your nervous system has trouble correctly interpreting signals your nerves send. Rigid muscles can limit your range of motion and make fitness more difficult. Stiffness can also cause discomfort or pain. Regular exercise and physical therapy can help treat this symptom.
Parkinson’s disease impacts your ability to control your muscle movements. With that in mind, it can cause your posture to suffer because your brain isn’t sending signals to the correct muscles that keep your back erect. Lack of control can cause you to lose balance or inhibit your coordination.
Limited automatic movement
Automatic movement refers to movements and body processes that you are not consciously sending signals to complete but that your nervous system controls anyways. These processes can be very necessary, like breathing. They can also be minute movements you may not be aware of, like muscle contractions and chemical reactions that cause digestion or menstrual cycles. By affecting these movements, Parkinson’s disease can impact your overall health and safety, though there are treatments that can help with these symptoms.
Slurring or speaking delays can occur in Parkinson’s patients. It can also cause the patient to speak in a softer tone or monotone voice, limiting their vocal range.
Difficulty with fine motor skills
One of the first symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is a struggle with fine motor skills. Writing can become a challenge for people with the disease. Patients’ handwriting may change due to the difference in how they can control their muscles, or they may find it difficult to hold a pencil. Additional fine motor skills like buttoning buttons or scissors can also be impacted.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you can make an appointment with your doctor to inquire about a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Different types of movement disorders have the same symptoms, so getting a professional diagnosis is essential before you consult about treatment. Additionally, catching symptoms early can improve your quality of life as the disease progresses.
Treatments for Parkinson’s disease
Working with your doctor, you can develop a treatment plan specific to your needs. Many people have a combined treatment plan of chemical and physical therapy plan to reduce the disease’s progress and improve their motor functions. Physical and occupational therapy can hugely benefit patients by improving mobility and muscle control. Additionally, specific therapy programs exist that are designed to benefit Parkinson’s patients, like Rocksteady Boxing. This program works with patients to understand their specific needs and build programs around the symptoms and effects of Parkinson’s disease. If you are interested in learning more about Rocksteady Boxing, you can sign up for a session at Living Well Balanced.
Living Well Balanced offers holistic healthcare from caring and experienced professionals. We provide physical and boxing therapy to assist our clients in every aspect of their health and Parkinson’s management. You can make an appointment with one of our massage therapists to learn how they can benefit your treatment plan for injury recovery or prevention and chronic pain. Check out our blog for more information about alternative therapies. If you have any questions, you can always give us a call at 212-579-2858 or send an email to email@example.com.