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April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

By Sarrisa Curry, Rock Steady Boxing

April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness MonthAncient Egyptian drawings and writings depict a strange ailment which caused drooling, backs bent in a forward slump, and shaking bodies. Ayurverdic manuscripts dating back to the 10th century BC detail an illness marked by a progressive degeneration of walking, talking, and movement. We now recognize these symptoms as Parkinson’s Disease.

Discovery and Diagnosis
James Parkinson first wrote his essays on the common symptoms – tremor, posture changes and gait deviations in 1817. He had named the disease “Shaking Palsy.” It became the generic diagnosis for any movement disorder at that time. Further research by Jean-Martin Charcot in 1865 highlighted rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness of movement) and fatigue. “Parkinson’s Disease” (PD) was assigned to this specific form of movement disorder characterized by the presence of these symptoms.

Externally, PD can be obvious with hand tremor, slow shuffling footsteps, slouching posture and an expressionless face. Internally, the brain is experiencing a deterioration of a small subsection of the Basal Ganglia called the Substantia Nigra or “Dark Matter.”

About Substantia Nigra and Basal Ganglia
The Substantia Nigra is made up of two thin lines of clustered neurons. This brain matter is saturated with dopamine neurons. Dopamine neurons are dense in Neuromelanin, a dark pigment. Healthy Substantia Nigra is dark grey or black looking. In PD, this area is significantly lighter in shade as the neurons are dying off and are no longer active. This dying off causes a loss of smooth movement in muscles.
The Basal Ganglia as a larger section of the brain is responsible for Motor learning: 1) Fine Motor: tying shoes, buttoning shirts, writing etc. and 2) Gross Motor: walking, skipping, climbing stairs, etc.

Eye Movement: Track an object as it moves about.

Executive Function: Memory, multi-tasking, and troubleshooting. It is the ability to conceptualize, start, carry through and complete a thought and task.

Behavior Control: Keeps addictive, destructive and morally corrupt behaviors at bay.

Emotional Control: Assigns appropriate emotional responses to situations and stimulations.

Motivation: Desire to act upon an emotion or need, the cause to which a person does something.

A Revolutionary Treatment
Outside of dopamine medications and deep brain stimulation surgery, there are relatively few treatments that have been shown to be effective to alleviate symptoms. Research is taking place right now on a revolutionary treatment that has been proven in clinical, human trials to slow/stop the progression, reduce/alleviate symptoms, and increase the quality of life of people with PD. It is called Rock Steady Boxing.

The concept: Exercise, at a vigorous and sustained pace, surrounded by others battling PD, with upbeat music, motivating coaches, and exercises that challenge every aspect of motor learning, cognition, and hand eye coordination can improve the symptoms of PD. IT WORKS!!

If you have a loved one with PD, there is hope! Find Rock Steady Boxing Kansas City at In Your Corner Fitness. We have 130+ people with PD fighting daily to win their life back. We offer 2 locations in Overland Park, KS and Gladstone, MO. Learn more about our program at www.inyourcornerkc.com or call 913-276-HOOK (4665).

Commonly Asked Questions

Q. Who gets PD?
A. Men and Women. (Men are around 11/2 – 2 x more likely to get PD). Most people are diagnosed after the age of 60, but 5% of people are diagnosed at a younger age.

Q. Can I prevent getting PD?
A. While it is possible to point out some factors that can increase risks such as repetitive head trauma, exposure to toxins such as pesticides and environmental pollutants, and a slightly higher risk if someone else in your family has had PD, preventing it is similar to any other disease. Good health habits such as exercise, clean diet, sleep, stress management and reducing exposure to toxins through drugs, food, or other means are the best defense.

Q. What are the symptoms of PD?
A. Tremor, slow movements, slouching posture, arms stop swinging when walking, depression, anxiety, loss of facial expression, voice becomes soft, writing can become sloppy and small, and muscles and joints become stiff and painful.

Landmark Discoveries in PD Treatment
1910: synthetic dopamine is first created
Early 1900’s: experimental surgery on areas of the brain show promise for PD movement disorders
1950’s: the specific neurotransmitter dopamine was linked to PD
1940’s-50’s: targeted lesions on various areas of the brain caused paralysis of tremor and easing of rigidity. Surgeons experimented on multiple levels of destruction of the brain to determine an effect on PD symptoms.
1961: first human trials of dopamine as a potential treatment for PD – widely accepted as the most beneficial and safe treatment
1987: electrodes were implanted into the first human brain sending electric pulses to areas of the brain resulting in a dramatic reduction of PD symptoms
1997: Deep Brain Stimulations were FDA approved as a treatment for PD movement disorders.

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