Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease & TAI CHI THERAPY

In a special to CNN, the Mayo Clinic’s mayo clinic.com reported that, “Parkinson’s disease is progressive, meaning the signs and symptoms become worse over time. But although Parkinson’s may eventually be disabling, the disease often progresses gradually, and most people have many years of productive living after a diagnosis.” This would indicate that there may be effective interventions that could perhaps slow the progress of the disease. When we get such a diagnosis, our first reaction might be to withdraw and give up. However, the old adage “use it or lose it” tells us that just the opposite is true. If you have Parkinson’s, you’d likely be best off to use everything your body is, every which way, on a regular basis.

Tai Chi movement’s gentle balance enhancing motions can obviously help the Parkinson’s patient by helping to reduce the gradual loss of balance that Parkinson’s sufferers often experience. However, there may be much more it offers. For example, Tai Chi movements rotate the human body in about 95% of the ways the body can move, when a long form is practiced. This is far beyond what other exercise offers, and in fact the closest would be several swimming strokes, which together would only rotate the body in about 65% of the ways it can move. For Parkinson’s sufferers, or anyone for that matter, this would indicate that by “using” 95% of the body’s possible motion several times a week, the possibility of “losing” the ability to do so diminishes accordingly. This isn’t rocket science, but simple common sense.

Yet, perhaps Parkinson’s patients have even more to gain from Tai Chi. A few years ago I taught several classes at local medical centers. I was continually frustrated because although I’d seen emerging reports that Tai Chi was beneficial to people with Parkinson’s Disease, or arthritis, or chronic hypertension, etc., even though the departments that specialized in those conditions were often just down the hall from my Tai Chi class . . . they might as well have been a million miles away. Because the physicians who ran those departments were either ignorant of or unwilling to refer their patients to the possibilities that Tai Chi offered their lives.

I remember though, that at one medical center a visionary neurologist began to refer patients with balance disorders to my Tai Chi classes and the result was very beneficial for his patients. Another physician actually wrote prescriptions for my Tai Chi classes to treat the chronic hypertension of his patients, who’d seen a significant drop in their blood pressure since beginning the classes weeks before. A clinical psychologist brought me in to teach Qigong (Chi Kung) meditation and Tai Chi to her patient group to enhance their sense of well being and provide effective stress management training. So, even back then some physicians were seeing the potential Tai Chi offered their clients, and even more are now, but the number of physicians who are still not informing their patients of Tai Chi’s direct therapeutic or at the least adjunct therapy benefits to their patient’s efforts to deal with their conditions and life, is increasingly indefensible in this day and age. Given the research that has exposed the many physical, mental, and emotional benefits Tai Chi offers, for physicians to not educate themselves on this and share their knowledge with each and every patient is tantamount to mal-practice. Health educators should likewise be making such therapies part of their medical student education programs as well.

Tai Chi for Parkinson’s is being recommended increasingly by support groups and some progressive medical centers, but until everyone that has Parkinson’s knows about it, then our work at World Tai Chi & Qigong Day is not done, nor is the medical community’s. There are many obvious reasons everyone with Parkinson’s should be doing Tai Chi, but it’s the ones that are not yet obvious that may be the most intriguing. One obvious reason is that Tai Chi is the most powerful balance and coordination enhancing exercise known. In many studies at major universities Tai Chi was found to be TWICE as effective in reducing falls as the other balance enhancing exercises being studied. For people with Parkinson’s, who often see their balance deteriorate as their condition progresses, it is unforgivable for them to not be informed of Tai Chi’s potential benefits at the earliest stage possible while their balance is still good.

Now, regarding the less obvious reasons Tai Chi may benefit Parkinson’s patients. Both my wife and daughter, who co-taught a Tai Chi class together noticed that a young man with severe Parkinson’s tremors . . . completely lost his tremors once he joined the class in flowing through the Tai Chi movements in class. In another class I was teaching an older man with advanced Parkinson’s attended my classes for many months, and he always came in very slow with his walker. Once we began the Tai Chi movements he no longer used his walker, and had learned the entire long form of Tai Chi I taught, which was over 15 minutes of continuous changing forms. His form was unique and tailored for his limitations, but nonetheless a challenging set of exercises he was able to accomplish without the use of his walker. What do these anecdotal experiences portend for others with Parkinson’s? I don’t know, but there should be massive research dollars coming from the National Institutes of Health to find out. Given the promise Tai Chi seems to offer people on so many profound physical, emotional, and mental fronts from preliminary research, the current total research money earmarked for complimentary and alternative medicine’s (CAM) is a mere pittance.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), now in its sixth year, supports more than 300 research projects and has an estimated budget of over $120 million for 2010 (up from $50 million in 1999). Total spending on CAM by all NIH institutes and centers is expanding as well, and is expected to reach $315 million by 2010.

Sounds like a lot? However, $120 million is less than “one half of one percent” of the total NIH FY2010 budget. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges the NIH’s total annual budget for FY 2010 is $28.8 billion (http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/05pch8.htm). Remember, we are talking about only spending much much less than one half of one percent to study an exercise that preliminary research has shown to: n Lower High Blood Pressure (about 1/3 of Americans have hypertension – roughly over 90 million Americans) n Boost Immune Function profoundly (a study sited at drkoop.com indicates that a Tai Chi practicing group was TWICE as resistant to the shingles virus, and researchers believed this would carry over to other viral resistance as well.) n Dramatically reduce falling injuries by about half (complications from falling injuries in older Americans is the 6th leading cause of death for seniors in America)

If Tai Chi only addressed this chronic condition affecting 1/3 of Americans, while boosting the immune system of all practitioners profoundly, and cutting in half the sixth leading cause of death for seniors, without any negative side effects, that would seem to be, for the rational person a reason for pouring massive resources into researching it further. However, Tai Chi’s benefits only begin with the above preliminary findings. We also know that it may very well relieve depression, anxiety, and mood disturbance, as well as reduce ADHD symptoms in teenagers diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. There are indications that Tai Chi may greatly reduce or even eliminate chronic pain conditions, and lessen allergic and asthmatic reactions, and improve overall respiratory function.

My point is, “where is the massive attention this would garner on talk shows, and in health newspaper sections, if this were a drug or surgery that could provide such a seemingly massive breakthrough in health treatment?” Peter Chowka, in a brilliant two part series for Natural Health Line, entitled “Complementary & Alternative Medicine in 2000,” wrote, “Conflicts of interest are not uncommon in most aspects of life. But in medicine, the biggest business in the U.S. (over $1.5 trillion a year constituting over 14 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, according to the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine report issued January 10, 2001), serious conflicts are particularly well entrenched.” Mr. Chowka wrote of physicians like Dr. Marcia Angell voicing concerns of the “troubling” result massive research money from drug and medical-equipment companies was having on the scientific process. In the New England Journal of Medicine’s May 18, 2000 issue, Dr. Angel wrote an editorial entitled, “Is Academic Medicine for Sale?” She wrote, “As we spoke with research psychiatrists about writing an editorial on the treatment of depression . . . we found very few who did not have financial ties to drug companies that make antidepressants. . .The problem is by no means unique to psychiatry. We routinely encounter similar difficulties in finding editorialists in other specialties, particularly those that involve the heavy use of expensive drugs and devices.”

So, who can make a multi-billion dollar fortune teaching Tai Chi to people? No one can. Tai Chi cannot be bottled, or mass marketed. It is a decentralized labor intensive industry that employees many people, but keeps the profits small and local. Yes, there are videos and DVDs that teach Tai Chi effectively, but ultimately even those who utilize videos are drawn to live class like structures. As I mentioned before with the “anecdotal” experiences of my students with Parkinson’s, Tai Chi seems to offer something profoundly beneficial to the quality of life of Parkinson’s sufferers. It needs further study. We are in a catch 22, where many health professionals feel they cannot recommend Tai Chi because too much of the preliminary research is anecdotal. However, when Tai Chi is jockeying for position to get a crumb of the .5% of total NIH money going to ALL complimentary and alternative medical therapies . . . the result will be many long years of millions of people suffering needlessly from conditions or symptoms of those conditions that Tai Chi could likely safely lessen or even eliminate.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT TAI CHI AND PARKINSONS?

Tai Chi is being recommended by some forward thinking medical institutions already. The Cleveland Clinic of Neuroscience Center encourages Parkinson’s Disease patients to seek out a hobby or activity they can enjoy and stick with such as “Tai Chi” and other activities. The Alexian Neurosciences Institute in Illinois offers a course in their The Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center. Also, the American Parkinson’s Disease Association at Stanford University Medical Center, in it’s “Beyond Pills…. Alternative Approaches to Coping with Parkinson’s Disease” program, offered “Tai Chi, The Art for Living with Parkinson’s” by Mwezo & Jane of Kujiweza Healing Arts. (Learn more at: http://parkinsons.stanford.edu/symposium.html). The Parkinson’s Society of Canada recommends Tai Chi for Parkinson’s patients, suggesting “Tai Chi may prevent or at least slow down the onset of degenerative diseases; in the long run, it can reduce need for rehabilitative care.” (http://www.parkinsons.ca/managing.html#taichi)

In the United Kingdom a Parkinson’s Tai Chi study was conducted at Camborne Redruth Community Hospital, Cornwall. Their conclusion of the study was such, “Tai Chi training was well tolerated by PD patients in this study, but had no measurable effect on motor performance using UPDRS score or GAG time. There was a non-significant improvement in quality of life scores (PDQ 39). Larger studies would be needed fully to evaluate the value and efficacy of Tai Chi. However our results are encouraging, and provide evidence for its safety and tolerability and would support the feasibility of further study.” (http://www.pdcornwall.org.uk/showarticle.pl?n=30&id=81)

WCHS TV during a news report focusing on Tai Chi’s ability to boost immune system function, also reported that “Tai Chi has also been shown to help illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and arthritis.” (http://www.wchstv.com/newsroom/healthyforlife/2177.shtml)

The Neurology Channel reported, “The slow flowing movements of Tai Chi help maintain flexibility, balance, and relaxation. The Struthers Parkinson’s Center in Minneapolis, which teaches a modified form of Tai Chi, consistently reports benefits achieved by patients in all stages of Parkinson’s.” (http://www.neurologychannel.com/parkinsonsdisease/surgery.shtml)

Physicians at the Mayo Clinic recommend Tai Chi for Parkinson’s therapy, under their Parkinson’s “self-care” section for avoiding falls, where they suggest you “Ask your doctor or physical therapist about exercises that improve balance, especially tai chi. Originally developed in China more than 1,000 years ago, tai chi uses slow, graceful movements to relax and strengthen muscles and joints. “

At a popular health website called “RemedyFind.com” viewers can vote on therapies they’ve found benefited their condition, or didn’t benefit it. The rating there for Tai Chi as a Parkinson’s therapy received a rating of 9.8 out of a possible 10. (http://remedyfind.com/rem.asp?ID=13945)

A Study at the University of Florida in Jacksonville found that patients who attended Tai Chi classes for one hour each week for 12-weeks were less likely than a group of control patients to experience an increase in the severity of their condition and a decrease in motor function. . . .[of alternative therapies] the most popular therapies being Tai Chi, yoga, and acupuncture. (http://www.worldhealth.net/p/275,1526.html), (SOURCE/REFERENCE: Reported by www.reutershealth.com on the 13th November 2002)

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported, “Parkinson’s Meets It’s Match in Tai Chi.” In this article they write that Dr. Mark Guttman, director of the Centre for Movement Disorders in Markham, Ontario, recommends people with Parkinson’s do exercises that involve a lot of stretching, similar to the movements of tai chi.

“Tai chi is wonderful; it can help people with disabilities as well as people with Parkinson’s,” he says. He added that studies on animals show exercise induces a change in the brain that prevents the symptom’s of Parkinson’s from emerging.

The Tai Chi teacher for this program, Ms. Embree, spoke of how people with fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, and Parkinson’s often attend her classes . . . “Doctors are now sending people here,” adds Ms Embree. (for the entire article, go to: PARKINSON’S MEETING IT’S MATCH IN TAI CHI, April, 13, 2010, http://www.ajc.com/health/content/health/0304/lvtaichi7.html)

At the National Parkinson’s Foundation site, Melanie M. Brandabur, MD NPF Center of Excellence, University of Illinois at Chicago and Jill Marjama-Lyons, MD NPF Center of Excellence, Shands Jacksonville, wrote, “Most patients derive a great deal of benefit from today’s medications and surgical therapies for Parkinson’s Disease . . . However, benefits of these therapies can be limited. As time goes by, the medications may not seem as effective as they once were. Side effects or unpredictable response may develop. Surgical therapies are not curative and often treat only selected aspects of Parkinson’s Disease. For these reasons, patients may decide to explore other modalities, such as massage therapy, Tai Chi, yoga, or herbal preparations to augment their Parkinson’s medication . . . Many patients with Parkinson’s Disease have become interested in complementary therapies to supplement medications and other traditional PD treatments. These physicians also suggest that as Tai Chi and other modalities benefits are exposed by clinical research, physicians will advocate their use more widely. (http://www.parkinson.org/site/pp.asp?c=9dJFJLPwB&b=238635)

World Tai Chi & Qigong Day joins a growing number of health professionals specializing in fields like Parkinson’s who believe that much more research needs to be done to illuminate the full spectrum of benefits Tai Chi offers all people as well as those specifically with chronic conditions. This will enable more physicians to make Tai Chi a regular prescription written as therapy or adjunct therapy for a host of maladies many are already enjoying the benefits of for their condition, but paying out of pocket for. Ultimately more and more health insurance plans should and will make Tai Chi classes a deductible medical expense for their clients. The end result of this shift may portend the savings of hundreds of billions of dollars annually in saved health care costs as patients are better trained in self care techniques, training the great visionary Thomas Edison referred to as “the care and maintenance of the human frame,” which Edison envisioned would more and more reduce the need for expensive surgeries and life long dependence on medications as human beings maximized their own self healing abilities. Traditional Chinese Medicine has spent centuries developing and evolving self healing technologies like Tai Chi. Now the west can learn about their results, and physicians can prescribe them to their patients and our entire society will be healthier and more abundant for it.

Healthcare Isn’t Healthy

Why Our Healthcare System Isn’t Healthy
Most people are well aware that an estimated 45 million Americans currently do not have healthcare, but is the crisis simply the lack of health insurance or even the cost of health insurance? Is there a bigger underlying problem at the root of our healthcare system? Although the U.S. claims to have the most advanced medicine in the world, government health statistics and peer-reviewed journals are painting a different picture — that allopathic medicine often causes more harm than good.

People in general have always felt they could trust doctors and the medical profession, but according to the Journal of the American Medical Association in July 2000, iatrogenic death, also known as death from physician error or death from medical treatment, was the third leading cause of death in America and rising, responsible for at least 250,000 deaths per year. Those statistics are considered conservative by many, as the reported numbers only include in-hospital deaths, not injury or disability, and do not include external iatrogenic deaths such as those resulting from nursing home and other private facility treatments, and adverse effects of prescriptions. One recent study estimated the total unnecessary deaths from iatrogenic causes at approximately 800,000 per year at a cost of $282 billion per year, which would make death from American medicine the leading cause of death in our country.

Currently, at least 2 out of 3 Americans use medications, 32 million Americans are taking three or more medications daily, and commercials and advertisements for pharmaceutical drugs have saturated the marketplace. Although our population is aging, exorbitantly expensive drugs are being marketed and dispensed to younger and younger patients, including many children who years ago would never have been given or needed medication, for everything from ADHD to asthma to bipolar disease and diabetes. Clearly, the state of health in this country is not improving even though there are an increasing number of medications and treatments. Between 2003 and 2010, the number of prescriptions are expected to increase substantially by 47%. In recent years, numerous drugs previously deemed safe by the FDA have been recalled because of their toxicity, after the original drug approvals were actually funded by the invested pharmaceutical companies themselves.

According to the media, thanks to advances in U.S. drugs and medical procedures, Americans are living longer statistically, but they are living longer sicker, with a lower quality of life, and often dependent on multiple expensive synthetic medications that do not cure or address the underlying causes, but only suppress symptoms, often with a plethora of dangerous side effects to the tune of billions of dollars for the drug industry. Considering that the U.S. is supposed to have the most advanced technology in the world and the best health care system, it is at odds that we spend the most on healthcare, yet are the most obese and most afflicted with illness outside of the AIDS epidemic in some third world countries.

Unless you have an acute emergency that requires emergency room care, being admitted to a hospital environment may also be more dangerous to your health than staying out. In 2003, epidemiologists reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that hospital-acquired infections have risen steadily in recent decades, with blood and tissue infections known as sepsis almost tripling from 1979 to 2000. Nearly two million patients in the U.S. get an infection while in the hospital each year, and of those patients over 90,000 die per year, up dramatically from just 13,300 in 1992. Statistics show that approximately 56% of the population has been unnecessarily treated, or mistreated, by the medical industry.

Additionally, as a result of the overuse of pharmaceutical drugs and antibiotics in our bodies and environment, our immune systems have become significantly weakened, allowing antibiotic-resistant strains of disease-causing bacteria to proliferate, leaving us more susceptible to further disease. Not surprisingly, incidences of diseases have been growing at epidemic levels according to the CDC. Now diseases once thought conquered, such as tuberculosis, gonorrhea, malaria, and childhood ear infections are much harder to successfully treat than they were decades ago. Drugs do not cure. They only suppress the symptoms that your body needs to express, while they ignore the underlying root cause. Side effects of synthetic and chemical drugs, which even if they are partly derived from nature have been perverted to make them patentable and profitable, are not healthy or natural, and usually cause more harm than any perceived benefit of the medication.

Where “physician errors” are concerned, these may not be entirely the fault of the doctors, as they are forced to operate within the constraints of their profession or risk losing their license, but doctors have become pawns and spokesmen for the drug companies, and the best interest of the patient has become secondary. In the name of profit, physicians are also under great pressure from hospitals to service patients as quickly as possible, like an assembly line, increasing the likelihood of error.

In conclusion, increases in healthcare costs are not just the result of frivolous law suits, but are primarily the result of a profit-oriented industry that encourages practices that lead to unnecessary and harmful procedures being performed, lethal adverse drug reactions, infections, expensive legitimate lawsuits, in-hospital and physician errors, antibiotic resistance due to overprescribing of antibiotics and drugs, and the hundreds of thousands of subsequent unnecessary deaths and injuries. Many people do not realize that there are healthier natural options, and anything unnatural or invasive we are exposed to is likely to cause either immediate or cumulative damage over time.

Exercise

exercise
America is getting more obese every year. Even our children are becoming dangerously obese, even though we are more self conscious over our appearance. So what’s the magic bullet to getting trim and fit. Well, I’ll be honest, there isn’t any. First, we are all limited by our heredity. If your father has a spare tire, you’re probably going to be predisposed to have one yourself if your a man. If you’re a woman, you are going to have fight off your mother’s big hips. Today Americans have more money than they ever have before. No matter what people say about the economy, gradually over the years, Americans have become richer, and they eat to prove it. Even poor families eat more than middle class families of previous generations. Poor families often find it even harder to lose weight because junk food is cheaper, and they don’t have enough money, or as much time to be active, other than working.

If your job requires you to sit all day, you are in a world of hurt as well. You are not going to burn very many calories sitting all day. Plus boredom tends to create a desire to eat more.

So what am I suggesting? Here are some thoughts you might want to consider. First of all, you really have to want to be in shape if you are going to have a prayer of losing weight. It’s not easy. You’ve got to want it. Second, you have to make a decision in your life to live healthier. Eat moderately all the time. Don’t starve yourself and set yourself up for failure later. Your metabolism is just going to slow down anyway.

Most of the time people just eat too large of portions. Keep your portions moderately sized, and eat more times a day. Stop eating when you are full. There is no need to stuff yourself every meal. And, contrary to what your mother may have taught you, you don’t have to eat everything that is on your plate. The smaller your portions and the more times you eat the faster your metabolism is going to be. Here is the biggest thing people don’t want to do. You have to exercise. Moderate exercise can bring you from obese to a much healthier size. Find activities you like to do, and do it. The more you enjoy it, the more you’ll be able to stick with it.

No excuses. There really is no reason not to attempt to get into shape. I heard something from a preacher’s sermon that really makes sense. He basically said that some men work half of their lives to make money, and then give away the same money the other half of their lives to try and regain the health they lost gaining the money in the first place. The idea is don’t put work in front of health. Health costs are getting worse all the time. Unless your health insurance is great, you can’t make enough money to overcome the health costs you are going to have if you don’t take care of yourself now. If your excuse is that you are too out of shape to do anything, or you just can’t cut back on your food because of depression, boredom, etc. Then see your doctor and ask what you can do to start heading towards physical fitness. You’ve got one life to live. So don’t waste it.

The biggest problem we face in America today is laziness. Pure and simple. Did you know that working out helps you when you are depressed or having problems with anxiety. The more you lay around, the more discouraged you are going to get. It’s a terrible cycle. People say they are too tired from working. I can understand that, but even 30 minutes a day can make a big difference. Work out during the commercials while you watch television. If you’ve got kids take them outside and play with them. Kids are doing nothing, but watching TV and playing video games. If you play with your kids your helping yourself and them at the same time.

It’s a lot easier to keep it off than it is to lose it after you gain it. So even if you think you are in great shape, don’t stop working out. It’s a lot easier to keep up a steady routine than to have to burn off extra fat. Your body tends to fight you when your losing weight by giving you cravings for food. Just remember your body is more important than your big screen. Don’t just sit back watching football all day. Go play some football. Live life don’t just be a spectator.