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By Kerri Dean

Certain months suggest awareness of different causes, diseases and initiatives.  Most people think pink in October for breast cancer awareness, or red in February for heart disease cognizance.  The past few days, I’ve seen may people “go blue” across social media to recognize autism for the month of April.  These are all wonderful causes, but did you know that April is also the month for Parkinson’s disease and the color most associated with it is gray?  Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year.  The disease knows no racial, ethnic, gender or socioeconomic barriers.

When we hear Parkinson’s disease, a lot of people automatically think of actor and advocate Michael J. Fox.  Or perhaps Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest boxers to ever enter the ring.  How many of us have a friend or family member struggling with the disease?  Would you know what to do to help someone who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s?

It has been said that Music helps people with Parkinson’s Disease, so any kind of music or music therapy is helpful. Physical therapy may help keep Parkinson's disease patients limber, but researchers have found that music therapy may help them move faster -- and make them happier.  

Research has noted that physical therapy improved stiffness, but did not have a significant effect on overall daily performance. Music therapy did. Patients reported improved ability to do such tasks as cut food and get dressed, and said they were less likely to fall or experience the sudden freezing-up of muscles. Patients with Parkinson's have trouble initiating movement, and music therapy improved this problem -- possibly because of its rhythmical quality.

Patients emotional response to the music could affect their ability to move, they say, by activating a particular pathway in the brain that is thought to help regulate movements. Either way, the patients were happier when listening to music, and it increased their motivation.


Sandi Holten, a music therapist at Struther’s Parkinson’s Center focuses on music therapy.  One of her patients is Art Grell.  At 67, Art is a broad-shouldered bear of a man. But he no longer has a vigorous stride. Instead, Grell takes slow, halting steps, another effect of the disease.

When she meets with Art, Holten has him hit paddles in time with the music. She wants him to twist, loosen up, get his body moving and exercise muscles, especially those in his legs. That will help him lift his feet and restore rhythm to his gait.  Grell's voice is faint, but he said sessions with Holten lift his spirits. “I think the music gets me going more, gets me more excited," he said.

Dancing is also helpful, again, the rhythm of the music helps them. You can Google "music and Parkinson’s" and find more info of the benefits of music for people with Parkinson’s Disease.

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