THE BLOG

Moving to Parkinson's Beat

22/05/2014 16:45 BST | Updated 21/07/2014 10:59 BST

When I was first diagnosed with Parkinson's, I struggled to cope and understand the many strange symptoms that were coming at me fast and furious, as if from every direction. Unable to fall asleep at night, we tried all the usual "old wife's" remedies, but nothing seemed to work. This was almost eight years ago, and I can no longer remember whether it was my husband or I who came up with this slightly bizarre, but extremely effective method of distracting Parkinson's to enable me to finally fall asleep.

My husband put a wide variety of songs that I like on an MP3 player, and with ear plugs firmly in place, I would fall asleep to music. When my husband would eventually come to bed, he'd gently remove the ear plugs and detach me from the MP3 player. You would more than likely expect the music that effectively lulled me to sleep to be soft, gentle slow music, but absurdly I found that quite the opposite worked the best. Any music with a fast marching beat and plenty of base, somehow blocked out Parkinson's, as if my brain was concentrating on the loud music filling my head, there was no room left for anything else. Exhaustion would take over, and thankfully I would fall asleep.

When I would have particularly "sluggish" days or "off" times, my body refusing to cooperate, it makes it extremely difficult getting anything accomplished. I'm not one to give in easily, and began to put on loud music with a strong fast beat which would somehow make me rally round and I found myself moving a little easier, managing to get on with the task at hand.

I have done a huge amount of reading and research on the Internet into Parkinson's, which most do when diagnosed with any illness today. Early on, I heard of dance classes especially designed for those with Parkinson's which improved mobility with the additional benefit of being in a social fun environment. If married, doing something as a couple has tremendous further benefits for the physical and mental health of patient and their partner. Learning contemporary dance, Irish square dancing or ballroom dancing, all help with mobility and there have been some remarkable successful stories. So it stood to reason that music was an important factor here related to movement.

Music, or maybe it's the beat, speaks to a different part of the brain and enables the body to bypass the non-functioning signals and creating new pathways to increase mobility, whether it be dancing, moving around the house or taking a walk in the park. In contact with other fellow sufferers, I have found music has become an important part of many people's lives.

So nowadays you'll find me dancing barefoot in the house to loud rhythmic music, which according to my husband brings a huge smile to my face. I've found some invaluable information from fellow sufferers, and it is through sharing tips and advice from personal experience that helps one live the best life possible with Parkinson's. One has to admittedly put vanity and embarrassment aside, for the comic facial exercises necessary in order to keep the masking effect away, to speech therapy which would pain anyone within hearing range, to the odd dancing and jigging around the house to loud marching music - Parkinson's is far from dignified. My advice is; let your hair down, go with the flow and don't give a hoot what anyone else thinks.

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