Alternative Ways to Stave Off Parkinson’s

Fred Ransdell, who has had Parkinson’s since 1996, is an avid runner. (Source: The Dallas Morning News)

Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative movement disorder of the central nervous system, was discovered nearly 200 years ago. Since then, no single test exists that can definitively diagnose the disease, and doctors rely on the appearance of certain symptoms for diagnosis. The condition doesn’t discriminate based on gender, geography, race or even age (4% of those with Parkinson’s are under 50), and can take anywhere from a few short years to as long as 20 to progress.

Nearly one million Americans are living with Parkinson’s, and approximately 7 to 10 million people worldwide have the disease. Each year, 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and this number does not reflect the thousands of cases that go undetected. To increase awareness, show support, and raise funds for a cure, millions of people around the world are recognizing April as Parkinson’s Awareness Month.

Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s, there ARE effective ways to manage and stave off the disease, many of which involve alternative treatments and keeping a positive attitude. The list below will show you what I mean:

Venoms (Be sure to talk to a doctor about these treatments. Don’t risk a bite, because it may kill your pain (and you) at the same time.)

-Bees: Some Parkinson’s symptoms include muscle spasms that can cause pain and trouble moving. Bee venom may help relax these muscles, as it acts like botulinum toxin (the toxin in Botox) which causes a temporary paralysis of the muscles. Watch this Michael J. Fox Foundation video for more details.

-Spiders: Researchers who analyzed 206 different spider species found that 40 percent of the venoms had compounds that blocked nerve activity linked to chronic pain. A recent Yale study shows that certain species of tarantulas, in particular, can harbor healing powers and kill pain.

-Centipedes: The creepy crawlers that hang out in your basement provide certain therapeutic properties. The venom taken from certain centipedes block a sodium channel protein that can trigger pain relief similar to morphine.

-Snakes: Certain snake venoms have hemotoxins with antibacterial and painkiller properties. They target the circulatory system, and typically attack the body’s clotting ability and muscles, and have been used to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as stroke and brain injuries.

Poetry and the arts (for those of you who aren’t ready for snake venom treatments)

Wayne Gilbert, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2005,  launched “Unlocked,” a program that is funded by the Institute for Poetic Medicine in Palo Alto, California. He teaches prison inmates how to read and write poetry, and also uses it as therapy for his own Parkinson’s.

According to Gilbert:

“Art, in general, but poetry, in particular, has a way of accessing inner resources that a person may not otherwise be aware of. And those inner resources are the kinds of characteristics, qualities, strengths that can help a person be more resilient. . . .  I don’t want to get too metaphorical because prison is a nasty place to be. And yet, everyone is kind of in a prison. Parkinson’s is a kind of prison, if you will. And to write your way out without leaving is a thing I think poetry can do”.

He also states that “When I’m dancing, when I’m making a poem, when I’m acting in a play, I can forget that I have Parkinson’s for a little while.”

Positive Attitude (This is for everyone!)

Keep a positive attitude!  It REALLY does help.

We can’t . . . unless we think we can: We know that we cannot win a race unless we think we possibly can. The same goes for any illness. If we think we are going to die, then the chances are that we will die. Therefore, using the same logic, if we think we can get better then the chances are that we will get better.  Positive thoughts create positive energy, and positive energy has healing power

It helps our caregivers: Being positive and up-beat about our future can be very helpful to our caregivers. They find it much easier to relate to us if we offer a smile and a cheerful response, instead of a grumpy reply to their question, “how are you feeling?”

According to Fred Ransdell, an author and optimist who has had Parkinson’s since 1996, “Once I got Parkinson’s, I had the opportunity to do this stuff and I went hog wild with it,” he says. “I didn’t know how much time I’d have to be healthy enough to do those things. So I started doing them and I’m grateful I did.”  Fred is an avid runner and has pursued his interest in paleontology since he was diagnosed.  He only has to visit the doctor once a year, and his medication and acupuncture help him live a relatively normal lifestyle.

Other Alternative Therapies, including Reiki

Alternative therapies and treatments, including acupuncture, nutritional supplements, massage, chiropractic therapies, certain herbal therapies, and Reiki, have the potential to alleviate chronic pain in many people.

As a Reiki Master and as the founder of ROSE (Reiki Outreach Services for Elders), I have seen for myself the wonderful healing power of Reiki.  Reiki is one of many types of energy-based healing practices.  It is based on the fact that a universal energy or life force flows through us and around us.

The word Reiki is made of two Japanese words – Rei which means “God’s Wisdom or the Higher Power” and Ki which means “life force energy”. So Reiki is actually “spiritually guided life force energy.” This universal life force has been known to civilization since the dawn of time. In Chinese culture, it is called qi (pronounced chi); in the Hindu religion, it’s called prana; in ancient Greece, it’s called pneuma; in Hawaiian culture, it’s called mana; in Tibetan Buddhism, it’s called lüng; in Hebrew culture, it’s called ruah.

Reiki (along with many other types of energy-based healing) is a simple, natural and safe method of healing and self-improvement that everyone can use. It has been effective in helping virtually every known illness and malady and always creates a beneficial effect. It works in conjunction with all other medical or therapeutic techniques to relieve side effects and promote recovery.

When used with the elderly, Reiki can have a two-fold outcome in its use. Many, if not all, Parkinson’s patients sufferer from many chronic ailments at once rather than just one, including respiratory ailments such as emphysema, pneumonia, or asthma, Alzheimer’s, heart failure, kidney disease, immobility, or cancer. Receiving Reiki not only provides a level of energy and relaxation to the elderly, but can also address the emotional nourishment the elderly need – all through the simple act of touch.

Alternative therapies bring the body and mind to a better place. It may not take your back pain away tomorrow, but it can give you excellent coping strategies and increased awareness of what modifies the pain. Remember, as you are finding ways to help with your body, the greatest way to gain peace of mind comes with planning for your future and for your loved ones. If you or a loved one is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care or if you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), please call at one of the numbers below to make an appointment for an initial consultation, or sign up for one of our upcoming seminars:

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888

Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435

Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041

DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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