Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the neurons in an area of the brain that produce dopamine called the Substantia Nigra.
While PD is often diagnosed after many common symptoms are present, it actually begins much earlier than this, some research says PD starts to develop up to 20 years before symptoms appear (research).
Symptoms associated with the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinson’s-like syndromes: (read more)
- Tremor (pill rolling tremor)
- Shuffling feet/gait
- Stooped forward posture (camptocormia)
- Slowness in movement (bradykinesia)
Early Warning signs and symptoms: (read more)
- Restless leg during sleep
- Poor sleep (insomnia)
- Small handwriting (micrographia)
- Changes or loss in smell
- Stiffness in body
- Softening of your voice
- Loss of facial expression
- Dizziness and fainting
- Decrease in your autonomic system
- Slowing of vertical eye movements
Pathophysiology of PD
The neurons in the Substantia Nigra produce dopamine by making proteins and transporting them down a super highway of neurons called axons. Dopamine promotes movement in the human body. These building block proteins are called Tau proteins and should be made/folded in a specific way to transport and build dopamine. In a person with PD these proteins are signalled to be improperly assembled and they begin to “aggregate” or become “tangled” as a result of the abnormal building process. The end result instead of dopamine, becomes more dominated by abnormal tau proteins and neurofibrillary tangles. This essentially becomes a “traffic jam” on the super highway of neurons called axons. This creates a slowing of transportation and it results in a slowing of movement.
During our initial history and examination we look for areas of the brain that are slowing down, which is one of the first warning signs of PD. We assess vertical eye movements for velocities and hypometria because these are produced in the midbrain where the substantia nigra lives. We ask questions about sleep and digestion. If you have poor sleep, constipation, and poor/slow vertical eye movements as an example, we start to build a case for PD or PD-like syndromes. As we observe your gait we look for shortening of steps and a decrease of your arm swing from one side to another. We observe your affect or facial expressions. We test your vagus nerve function and ask specific questions about your digestion. We ask you to bring in your labs assessing inflammation, blood sugar, and anemia patterns. We discuss your diet and the impact that can have on your brain and body.
Possible causes and influencing factors of PD
- Iron deficiency/anemia
- Head injury
- Poor vagus nerve activity
- Poor Brain-gut axis function
- Blood sugar dysregulation
- Insulin resistance
- Neurological imbalances
Our approach to working with PD
PD is a complex web of dysfunction and has many possible causes. We know the physiology of PD and what can influence it, so we begin with a comprehensive examination to understand what areas of the brain are being affected.
We use VNG to assess eye movements, Computerized Dynamic Posturography to assess your balance and stability, Heart Rate Variability to assess the response of your autonomics which provides a window into blood flow and vagus nerve activity. We review your recent labs and order new labs as necessary.
Once we establish a baseline, we get to work stimulating the nervous system like a workout, promoting improved strength in the weak areas and use Low Level Laser Therapy to help improve the ability of those targeted neurons to improve their efficiency. As the weak areas of the brain get stronger, symptoms associated with your presentation begin to diminish, and your overall clinical picture begins to improve. As your brain improves and strengthens, your symptoms start to resolve and you can start living a more energetic, movement based life.