How Dance Classes Help Sufferers of Parkinson's Disease

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On average, Parkinson’s Disease affects 7-10 million people all over the world. It’s a progressive, neurodegenerative condition that is associated with impaired balance, reduced quality and walking. There’s an increased risk of falls in sufferers because of their impaired gait. Characteristics include shuffling, difficulty with multitasking with walking such as walking backward. Balance also becomes an issue.

With Parkinson’s, there are certain cells that breakdown causing lower dopamine levels in the brain. Tremors and slow movement are a direct trigger and examples of these lowered dopamine levels. One effective treatment for this disease is L-DOPA which addresses this imbalance of dopamine. However, with the advancement in medicine and research, there are other effective methods to help sufferers of this disease.

The top three symptoms for this disease include tremors, moving slowly and inflexible or stiff muscles. There are other physical as well as psychological symptoms that include depression, insomnia, constipation, memory problems and a loss of sense of smell.

People begin to develop symptoms at the age of 50 and it’s thought to be around 1 in 500 people become affected with Parkinson’s Disease. However, 1 in 20 people will begin to show symptoms in their 40s. It’s commonly seen in men more than women.

Dance Therapy

There have been several studies done that show dance can be a way to help treat the symptoms that come with Parkinson’s. Dance helps address the issues that can be found with this disease. Social interaction is a big part of dancing as it has a positive effect on a person’s mental health. Balance and moving are improved.

Studies and research have shown fall to be the biggest problem. Balance and their movement are affected so sufferers are likely to fall resulting in injury. With regular dance, people gain more control over their balance reducing fall risks.

Dawn Rose, a Research Associate for Lucerne University in Switzerland has conducted several studies showing the positive effects of dancing and rhythm in Parkinson’s Disease sufferers. She is currently researching rhythmically movement that’s guided. This type of therapy helps people learn to move more regularly through drumming rhythms. Once people have learned these movements with smaller hand drums, they move on to larger instruments. With bigger movements come bigger improvements and more beneficial effects.

Benefits of Dance in Parkinson’s Disease

There have been several studies done over a 10-week program that showed balance to be significantly improved. There was an improvement on the Berg Balance Scale of at least 4 points. Traditional exercise programs showed no improvement for sufferers.

Another study done showed those with neurological deficits such as TBI and stroke also saw an improvement in gait, cognitive performance, and balance along with those suffering from PD. This was done with a group of people partaking in dance therapy 2x weekly over a 5-month study.

The Mark Morris Dance Group worked to create the Dance for PD movement class which would be offered weekly and studies showed there to be an improved quality of life.

There’s a lot still to be studied with dance therapy for PD. However, sufferers should do twice a week sessions lasting anywhere from 60-90 minutes for a span of 6-12 weeks. More intense dance sessions have shown quicker positive effects. Studies showed that doing this had an improvement of 3 points on the Berg scale. Also, a 35m improvement was reported on the 6MWD. While these seem small, to a PD sufferer they are meaningful improvements.

There’s also an emotional connection with a dance class that many sufferers enjoy. Partnered dancing can help improve symptoms as well. With the regular movement and rhythms, dancing helps to reduce these common symptoms improving one’s overall quality of life.  

Be wise while choosing a dance school for Parkinson's disease.

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