Degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, Parkinson’s disease has no known cure. This ailment develops gradually, being almost asymptomatic in its first stages but becoming debilitating in time.
It starts with a barely noticeable tremor of the hands, and with stiff and slow movements, progressing towards slurred speech, decreased facial expression and shaking of limbs when sitting or standing still.The tremor is often the first noticed symptom, and in most people it starts manifesting between the ages of 50 and 60 years.
Evolution of Parkinson’s signs is slow, and the tremor usually occurs only in one arm or leg at the beginning, spreading to both sides with time, although not in all patients. In the early stages of the ailment, joint pain, fatigue and general weakness may also occur.
As the ailment advances, muscles become stiffer, movement coordination is affected and activities that require precise movements, such as writing or shaving become painful and hard to perform. Posture may also be altered and in the middle stage of the ailment, sufferers often accuse balance problems.
All these symptoms accentuate in the advanced stage, the tremor becoming so pronounced that it can interfere with daily activities and prevent one from performing basic tasks. Muscles become stiffer, moving becomes painful and many patients require wheelchairs to move from one place to another.
Although even the simplest form of exercise can temporary decrease the tremor, the rigidity of muscles and the pain caused by this progressive disorder makes it difficult for one to perform any conventional form of physical activity.
Patients with Parkinson’s have difficulties with maintaining balance, so it’s often hard for them to perform exercises that require coordination, balance and effort from their part. However, physical therapy remains one of the treatment options recommended to patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Can WBV help?
Some of the available studies suggest that whole body vibration therapy could help in reducing the tremor and muscle stiffness in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Published in the journal of NeuroRehabilitation, this study has investigated the effects of WBV on the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s sufferers. Results showed that whole body vibration therapy can reduce tremor and decrease the muscle rigidity, improving the step length at the same time.
Another study published in the same journal showed that 5 sessions of 60 seconds of WBV treatment improves the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), leading to better tremor and rigidity scores.
However, there were also studies who found no significant difference between WBV therapy and conventional physical therapy in people with Parkinson’s disease, so further research is needed before replacing conventional treatment with whole body vibration.