In my article A Prelude to Parkinson's, which tells my background story leading up to diagnosis, I discussed how I was lucky to have initially been sent to both a neurologist and muscular-skeletal expert. I say "lucky" because this gave me a dual diagnosis of Parkinson's and thoracic outlet syndrome. I believe this happenstance has been instrumental in my journey of Out-Thinking Parkinson's. This double diagnosis provided me a different narrative from the outset - that it's possible there can be more than one contributing factor.
If I had been seen by the neurologist only, then I simply would never have received the intensive physiotherapy for thoracic outlet - which did relieve the very worst of the pains, numbness and pins and needles sensations. However, I know from networking extensively with other people diagnosed with PD, many neurologists routinely discount injuries and body traumas as contributing factors and ascribe virtually all symptoms, including those more normally associated with nerve damage, to the Parkinson's diagnosis.
As my journey of self-discovery has unfolded, I've become much more mindful and self-aware of my own body-mind-energy complex. This awareness leads me to suspect that my thoracic outlet syndrome and my Parkinsonisms are, actually, one and the same problem. I now have the evidence, science and understandings to back this up. Again, from networking extensively with other people diagnosed with PD, I've also become certain that a large percentage of other people with "Parkinson's" have similar issues.
Indeed, through exploring my own symptoms, I came to realize that there was much more to what happens to me when I am "off" than simply losing my ability to move. I wrote about this in another article
I began to understand that what was happening to me was being caused, in large part, by not being able to get enough oxygen to my brain. So I started to research this. Here are some things I discovered that I would like to share with you, from which you can hopefully make your own mind up from an informed perspective.
The first piece of evidence I would like to present to you is from:
"The effects of hypoxic or anoxic brain injury, where the brain is starved of oxygen, can ... [lead] to severe, long-term issues including vision, speech and memory."
"....the nerve cells of the brain are particularly sensitive to lack of oxygen. Although anoxia may produce damage to cells throughout the brain, some areas are more vulnerable than others. The... hippocampus (important in memory), the basal ganglia and the cerebellum (both contributing to the control of movement) are particularly sensitive to anoxia."
[Interestingly, these are areas of the brain which are associated with being degeneratively diseased in Parkinson's diagnosis. The symptoms mentioned above are all also associated strongly with PD, of course.]
"Damage to the cerebral cortex, the cerebellum and the basal ganglia may lead to limb weakness and disturbances of movement, balance and co-ordination. There may be spasticity or rigidity, with increased muscle tone. Anoxic injury to the basal ganglia may lead to abnormal movements, including tremor, involuntary writhing movements (athetosis) and brief, jerky movements (chorea)."
[Again, the long term effects of anoxia being described here are precisely the major symptoms associated with a diagnosis of Parkinson's.]
"Disturbances of speech and language function may occur because of damage to areas of the brain involved in the production and articulation of speech, finding the right words and understanding language. Spoken and written communication may both be affected."
[Once more, these speech issues are part of the standard contributions to a Parkinson's diagnosis. It is interesting to note that decreasing size of handwritten words is one of the first tell-tale signs usually ascribed to PD onset too.]
"Damage to the frontal lobes may lead to disturbances in executive function - the ability to think and reason, to synthesize and integrate complex information and make considered judgements and decisions about what to do in a particular situation. These skills underlie the ability to plan for the future in a sensible way, as well as to function effectively in work and social settings."
[These are also often readily identifiable characteristics in People with Parkinson's.]
That there is good science backing my perspective that anoxia could be responsible for many cases of Parkinsonesque symptoms was confirmed to me this week by a very well explained article:
"Basically ... many cases of Parkinson’s are induced by decreased blood flow to the brain. “Chronic hypoxia was found to produce Symptomatic neurological syndromes such as symptomatic Parkinson’s disease. When chronic hypoxia affects the basal ganglia ... there is a decrease in dopamine production causing the symptoms of Parkinson”.
“This mechanism has been demonstrated with the PET Scan... [showed] arterial compression in the Thoracic Outlet and the internal carotid and vertebral arteries to the entry of the brain."
"...surgical success at correcting Cerebellar thoracic outlet syndrome... propose:
1) that the thoracic outlet syndrome is a disorder, primarily with vascular and neurological complications, and;
2), that most Parkinson’s symptoms are a functional problem and not organic at the core level of the basal brain."
"... the decreased blood supply to the brain typically got progressively worse over time”.
"...surgical technique was found to have excellent results in ...study of patients with CTOS /PD, 90.6% of the symptoms suffered by the patients, were eliminated or showed improvement after surgery."
As my third piece of evidence, I would like to present my "quantified-self". I took the photograph at the top of this post last night while in an "off" state. Please study the abnormal structures in the highlighted areas. The more pronounced these become the worse my "Parkinson's" symptoms are, including difficulty breathing, and when not employing conscious effort, the more I automatically fall back to mouth breathing. The more painful and tight this area is, the less movement and cognitive function I have.
It is quite obvious to me that these thoracic issues, which are clearly physically manifest, not just in myself but also other people diagnosed with Parkinsonism, are strongly correlated with a lack of oxygen to the brain and, in turn, to the severity of symptoms.
My friend Jim Kennedy, a fellow Person with Parkinson's, sent me a photo of his clavicle region, demonstrating similar pronounced structures when in an "off" state. Jim also sent me this link to an article about how hyperbaric oxygen treatment has been found to work to significantly improve symptoms of PD.
What does this mean, if correct? That the news is good. Because these bodily traumas can be treated or corrected. Armed with this empowering knowledge, progress towards tackling our "Parkinsonisms" can be made through re-learning how to breath, relaxation techniques and finding the postural positions which relieve the structures seen in my photo. The narrative of hopeless degeneration is no more, but unless we now tackle the actual causes of this form of Parkinson's, our ongoing lack of supply of oxygen to the brain will continue to have a cumulative effect of brain damage. So right now, very urgent research by the relevant bodies into this area is sorely required. I would go further. A fair proportion of the millions of dollars which is being ploughed into developing new drugs needs to be redirected into the proper science of Parkinson's Disease/Parkinsonism's.