Parkinson’s Awareness Month
April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. An effective yet relatively unknown treatment for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is neurofeedback. Having worked successfully with patients using neurofeedback, I felt it was important to share this information.
In 2009, I was in Vancouver, BC as a speaker for the 2nd International Conference on Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. I decided to go to Vancouver Island to see the sites and have tea at the English tea house. I recalled the joy of such an event when I was in the UK. While waiting in line, I met a wonderful couple from the UK who were celebrating the wife’s birthday. They invited me to have tea with them, and the rest is history.
They asked what brought me to British Columbia, and I told them about the International Conference on Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and my speech on “grieving the loss of self”. The woman explained to me that this is how she felt as a result of living with Parkinson’s Disease. When she shared how nothing had helped her symptoms, I asked if she was familiar with neurofeedback. I explained that as a neurofeedback practitioner, I had seen results using this type of treatment with a wide range of brain disorders. Somewhat skeptical, but very interested, she asked if it was possible to work together remotely using neurofeedback as a treatment for her Parkinson’s. And so we did.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Many of you reading this may be fully aware of what Parkinson’s Disease is, and if so, just skip down to the neurofeedback section. For those of you who do not know, Parkinson’s Disease is a form of brain disorder. To gain a clearer understanding, read up on Parkinson’s Disease.
As described on the web page, there are a wide variety of symptoms of PD, from hand tremors (trembling/shaky hands), to mask-like face (an expressionless face with little or no sense of animation). If you are not sure what I mean, just look at a current photo of Mohammad Ali versus his younger photos. Many people often think I have Parkinson’s Disease, including my own neurologist, because I have a right hand tremor, which was caused by my own brain injury. However, after many tests, Parkinson’s Disease has been ruled out.
As I mentioned, the woman from the UK was a bit skeptical and wanted to know why neurofeedback was not widely known or used, and why no one had mentioned it to her before if in fact it was effective. She was also very curious to know why I hadn’t used neurofeedback to stop my own hand tremor. My answer is that I spent years regaining my memory, balance, speech, comprehension, and many other brain functions from my multiple brain injuries with the help of many methods, especially neurofeedback. Honestly, the tremor is not a great bother, other than when I’m trying to put on makeup or thread a needle. Then, I often wire myself up and do a neurofeedback treatment on myself, and when necessary I have my makeup professionally applied. I lead a very busy life, personally and professionally, and I suppose it I had more time, and if it was more bothersome, I would in fact treat my own hand tremor.
As far as why neurofeedback is not widely known or used, I have written many blogs about this. In my opinion, it is because the collective group of manufacturers, as an industry, have not marketed themselves correctly. Eight years ago, I gave a speech at Future Health, which was a conference and forum for the field of neurofeedback. At that conference I presented an in-depth, step-by-step method of informing the medical, education, rehabilitation and general public about neurofeedback, how it works, and in which areas have proven research. However, it fell on deaf ears. In 2015, most people still have very little knowledge about the efficacy of neurofeedback in treating many conditions, including Parkinson’s Disease.
I do find it very interesting that with all the clinical trials for medication and other methods for Parkinson’s Disease, conducted by the leading medical centers, that to my knowledge, there have been no trials done by them exploring the use of neurofeedback in PD. If I’m incorrect, I would love to hear from them! There are, however, thousands of case studies. If you want to read the research done by clinicians in the field, see ISNR, AAPB, or Google “neurofeedback for Parkinson’s Disease” and you’ll discover over one thousand entries. Yet, most neurologists and primary care physicians seemingly are not aware of neurofeedback.
What is so unique about neurofeedback is that you can do it on-site or remotely, as I have done with several patients, including one from New Zealand and with the woman from the UK whom I met at the English tea house in British Columbia.
Going back to the woman from the UK with Parkinson’s Disease: in her case, with over 40 sessions, there was significant improvement in the symptoms, including balance, tremor, mask face, and especially sleep. I must note that I’m not a purest and truly believe in an integrative approach, thus along with neurofeedback, there were nutritional changes, water therapy, and hypnosis in conjunction with the neurofeedback. I do not believe that changing the brain dysregulation alone can work without changing some very important life changes, such as eliminating sugar as much as possible from your diet.
I do not claim that I’ve done clinical trials or that I have treated a vast population of people with Parkinson’s Disease with neurofeedback over my 40 years in practice. In fact, neurofeedback, as we now know, has only been around for the past 30 years. In 1994, neurofeedback was effectively used to treat the symptoms of my brain injury. I found it so helpful that in 1998 I started training to become a neurofeedback practitioner myself. In my subsequent concussions in 2008 and 2010, neurofeedback was the main factor that allowed me to return back to work as quickly as I did. Therefore, I’m keenly aware of its effectiveness for myself and the various patients that I have worked with who have Parkinson’s Disease.
I would not say that neurofeedback cures this disease; however it treats the wide variety of symptoms allowing a person with Parkinson’s Disease to experience an improvement in symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life.
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There is a Way!™