Introduction: a Pragmatic Approach to Parkinson's Disease
This article explores how I've found that persistent and targeted "neural exercises" can progressively reduce various symptoms/problems of Parkinson's Disease, through neuroplastic processes. In particular, here I will demonstrate specific neural exercises, and how I have significantly improved my own quality of life through pursuing these persistently over time, via entries from my video diary which are interspersed through the article.
Let me first describe the general practical and pragmatic approach to Parkinson's Disease that I've been developing.
- Identify an individual major symptom, especially one which is associated with neurodegeneration and disease progression, at least under the current purely pharmacological or surgical intervention frameworks.
- Research the human biological mechanisms (including, importantly, the evolutionary biology), and neuroanatomical elements, which control, or through, malfunction, result in the symptom.
- Explore, experiment and develop applicable strategies, exercises and therapies which may halt the worsening of the symptom, or recover the associated functionality over time.
For myself, the emphasis has been on therapies I can implement at home, for a purely practical reason that these typically require persistent daily application over the long term for optimal results.
The Nervous System and Applied Neuroplasticity
In pursuing this line of inquiry, I find the evidence almost invariably points to an atrophy, inhibition or dysfunction of some aspect of the human Nervous System being the underlying root cause of the symptom, and that there is a significant element of "use it or lose" to the neurodegenation/disease progression, because
"Neurons which fire apart, unwire apart".
This is why I believe degeneration is not inevitable, and that relying solely on drugs or surgery without integrating targeted therapies, is not the best avenue to go down for people with PD. Indeed, the Nervous System, including the Central Nervous System of which the brain is part, is now known to be highly reconfigurable, as neural networks between large regions of neurons can always be changed over time with the right stimulus.
"Neurons which fire together, wire together."
The Supporting Evidence
There is now overwhelming evidence to support the idea that "neural exercises" are key to preventing degeneration and recovering function. Indeed, significant scientific literature and case history evidence arises from the well documented clinical success of strategies which apply neuroplasticity. I currently highly recommend the following books on the topic:
The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF FEELING SAFE, by Dr Stephen Porges;
LIMITLESS. HOW YOUR MOVEMENTS CAN HEAL YOUR BRAIN. An Essay On The Neurodynamics Of Dystonia, by Dr Joaquin Farias;
When the Body Says No, The Cost of Hidden Stress, by Dr Gabor Mate;
The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma, by Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk,
I also recommend following the work of Irene Lyon.
However, enough evidence for my own satisfaction also comes from networking with people affected by such conditions, and with therapists of all kinds involved in healing strategies, from all over the world. This sharing, and then following up with further research, of what is and is not working in the real world of the real lives of real people, has provided me more than enough substantive verification for the above practical approach. Thus I continue to pursue avenues, which the concept opens up, to progressively reduce my own symptoms as fast as possible.
Indeed, for myself, now, all the proof of concept I really need to sustain my own motivation is the long term improvements I continually see in myself. This self-evidential basis is what drives me forward: while I continue to see progress, I will continue to develop the pragmatic approach, for myself and freely share my research and outcomes for others who may wish to follow.
Application of Neural Exercises
It is important to note that this approach is not easy, takes a long time of small practice periods everyday, is not linear (set-backs and plateaus in progress abound), requires building up slowly in baby steps, persistence, self-motivation and dedication. Unfortunately self-motivation with PD is difficult at the best of times, but one of major motivations for myself is that I see the alternative, doing nothing and allowing progressive degeneration, as too horrific to contemplate.
Examples of Specific Neural Exercises
I have included many examples of specific neural exercises I've researched, tried and tested, for addressing particular symptoms, in several of my previous articles, listed below, and will continue to document these.
EYE AND VISION EXERCISE IN PARKINSON'S DISEASE (includes exercises for neck mobilization);