Dance, music therapy could help Parkinson's patients, caregivers: Indian study

Patients & their caregivers attended in-person classes for three months


Rajiv Mehta, 70, had a very active life. He's a businessman in customs and shipping, he had been practising yoga on a daily basis and would travel frequently for work. However, he began feeling 'rigidity' in his body for a few days and opted to get himself tested for arthritis. the results came negative and that's when alarm bells went off-- could this be something more sinister? This happened three years ago when he was 67. In time, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's and the symptoms began showing -- tremors on the left side, rigidity of movement and the inability to walk and move normally.

Mehta then registered for a dance therapy session at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre. These were one hour in-person sessions that would take place thrice a week, for three months offline (and three months online). "It was immensely helpful; I could feel an improvement in the coordination on both left and the right side. During those six months of therapy, I could feel that I was a changed person and my condition had improved by leaps and bounds," says Mehta. This was a part of a clinical trial helmed by Dr Paresh Doshi aimed at slowing the progression of Parkinson's disease by exploring the potential of transformative approaches such as dance, music and meditation in a bid to manage symptoms and improve overall well-being. 

This was a six-month study, in which patients and their caregivers attended in-person classes for three months and once a week for the next three months online. Patients were evaluated for the impact of these recreational activities on their motor functions, behaviour, mood and cognitive functions, even as patients in both, the controlled group and the trial group, continued with their daily medicines alongside. A patient diary was maintained to ensure adequate compliance and those who could not follow the schedule were excluded from the trial.

Dr Paresh Doshi, principal investigator of the trial and the director of neurosurgery and stereotactic and functional neurosurgical program at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre said that the trial demonstrates the potential of alternative therapies in not just managing symptoms but in potentially slowing down the progression of this debilitating disease. "This is one of the few trials in the world that has evaluated not only Parkinson's disease but also the caregivers' burden in the management of Parkinson's disease through dance and music therapies and meditation." Commenting on how this trial was different than many others that have been done in the past especially abroad, Dr Doshi said that "this level of detailed evaluation of motor disability, mood, behaviour and cognition has always been performed in surgical interventional trials or medical interventional trials but never in any trials where no intervention except dance and music were offered. This trial laid a lot of emphasis on the quality of life which was one of the principal trial endpoints."

Dr Rajni, a neuro-anesthesiologist at Jaslok Hospital spoke about the impact of dance therapy on Parkinson's patients. "There have been a lot of studies but mostly abroad. There they found that there is a positive outcome of dance, music, and meditation on patients with Parkinson's. The unique thing about our study is that it is we've included all three-- dance, music and meditation in an integrated study and as against observational studies carried out abroad, ours is a randomised trial by dividing patients into two groups, viz, one which receives these three interventions and one which does not. We saw significant changes in those patients who engaged in these activities," says Dr Rajni.

Interestingly, it was not just the patients who received the benefits of dance, music and meditation but also their caregivers, who accompanied them at all times. It remains to be seen if these therapies find their way into routine disease management prescriptions at Jaslok Hospital and in other hospitals around the country. "We hope so," says Dr Rajni. 

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