EXERCISES TO REDUCE SYMPTOMS OF PARKINSON'S
- Strengthen internal focus using the eyes (to reduce involuntary motion).
- Stretch the rib cage (to decrease rigidity in the upper torso).
- Improve nervous system health (overall and in particular to assist with slowness of movement).
- Improve balance skills and learn keys to not having falls (to counteract postural instability).
- Reduce inflammation (to reduce PD risks and symptoms overall).
- Address depression and anxiety.
Strengthen internal focus using the eyes:
Steps to improving eye focus:
- Eye exercises are wonderful! Circling your eyes, looking up and down, side to side without moving your head. And conversely keep your eyes glued to one spot while you move your head from side to side and up and down. Much has been done in use of eye exercise to improve sight in general. It is especially worthwhile for anyone suffering from distraction or tremors.
- Practice central fixation (focusing on a small, inanimate object in the center of your field of vision): Every time your viewpoint changes, refocus to something in the center of your new field of vision. A good exercise for helping with this is to imagine you are in the center of a clock and face each hour marker, from straight ahead at 12 o'clock to 1, 2, and 3, back the other way to 11, 10 and 9. As you face each hour, refocus your eyes.
- Practice eye to eye contact by looking into your own eyes in the mirror as you are doing the exercises. Practice maintaining eye contact. Do not be bothered if your eyes stray. Simply come back to looking into your own eyes.
- Practice holding focus for a few seconds at a time, whether practicing central fixation or eye to eye contact in the mirror. Extend the period as your focus gets stronger.
- Beware of rigidity. Try to learn to focus while being relaxed. In other words, try to be relaxed as you practice focusing. Check your shoulders to keep tension from taking over. Move around gently so immobility doesn't contribute to the tension. Resist the urge to shift your glance around.
- Breathe: Deep breathing is so helpful, especially while practicing. See How to Breathe for more information.
Stretch the rib cage:
- Release tension in the shoulders and neck: Sit to the front of your chair, arms hanging straight down. Squeeze your right shoulder up. Pull your left arm down. Twist your left palm forward and back 4 times. Reverse sides.
- Stretch the front of the rib cage: Hold onto the back of your chair and allow your torso to tilt forward with your spine straight. Don't let your shoulders move up toward your ears. Keep them pulling downward. Be careful to not let the back legs of the chair lift off the floor.
- Practice deep breathing: How to Breathe includes tips on making the process easier and more relaxed.
Improve nervous system health:
- Rhythmic exercise is another excellent way to improve internal focus. Practice speed can be as slow as necessary while keeping the rhythm precisely. Speed can be increased as focus gets better. Focus development offers great benefits in combatting Parkinson's especially in increasing steadiness and prevention of falls.
- With slowness of movement it may be useful to allow the hands to train the feet. The shorter nerve pathway to the hand helps to improve system reflexes overall while assisting with foot stimulation as well. Perform exercises with the hands first and then with the feet.
- For more insight into how to improve the health of the nervous system please see the links below for articles that I have written about the subject directly:
Improve balance skills and learn keys to not having falls:
- Increase strength, flexibility, coordination and focus by studying exercise to improve balance.
- Learn about things you can do to prevent having falls. Take every opportunity to reduce your risk of having a fall. (Pick your feet up when walking, do not walk and talk at the same time, etc.)
- Learn what you can do in the moment to improve stability when challenged. (Focus, engage your core, step aside, etc.)
These 3 factors are the basis of my teaching method. Each of the DVDs in my series Building Better Balance addresses all 3 concerns. These hour long DVD classes are worth watching even if you do not do the exercises!
Reducing inflammation whenever possible is an excellent strategy for PD sufferers: to reduce symptoms, reduce pain and improve quality of life. We make choices every moment that affect the level of inflammation in the body, just as we make choices that either raise or lower our fall associated risk. In both cases, small changes make a big difference fast. I recently wrote an article that describes what increases and decreases our level of inflammation. The article also discusses the difference between anti-inflammatories and antioxidants and how the later may have negative effects in the treatment of some forms of cancer.
Address depression and anxiety: