Parkinson's Disease and Combating Freezing Episodes
Parkinson's disease is a brain disorder of the central nervous system that often impairs a person's motor skills, speech, and other mobility functions. Characterized by a group of conditions called motor system disorders, Parkinson's disease results due to a loss of dopamine producing brain cells. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that allows for smooth coordinated function of the body's muscles and movement of the extremities. This loss of dopamine occurs when these nerve cells (neurons) in a vital region of the brain called the substantia nigra die or become impaired. This very small area of the brain is responsible for producing dopamine to the brain.
Parkinson's disease develops gradually, with the primary symptoms resulting from the loss of dopamine producing brain cells. These symptoms include tremors (shaking), slowness of movement, difficulty with balance, loss of coordination, speech changes, and rigidity (stiffness) of muscles and limbs. Typically, symptoms will begin on one side of the body and remain worse on that side throughout the stages of the disease. In the later, more advanced stages of Parkinson's disease, the person will often experience dementia, depression, and a temporary, involuntary inability to move called freezing episodes.
These "freezing episodes" are one of the most difficult symptoms of the disease, and are often the result of a person's inability to alter their motor programs when anticipating movements. This makes the episodes virtually impossible to predict. When these episodes occur the person's legs literally freeze and are stuck to the floor. These episodes can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes and create a large danger of the person falling at the beginning or end of the episode due to their unpredictability. People suffering from the freezing episodes may encounter situations that ultimately lead to these episodes.
Some common situations for Parkinson's freezing include:
The causes of these freezing episodes are widely unknown and have no cure. However, there are several things a person can do to help combat them. One is developing a motor program. This type of program is a strategy for anticipating one's movement in space, and is one key way for people to behaviorally train themselves to initiate movement. These pre-programmed movements through space allow the person to continuously move through difficult situations, and adjust themselves as needed. Freezing often occurs when a person is presented with an obstacle or unpredictable situation that causes them to alter this motor program. The best solution is to consciously prepare for these situations or avoid them altogether.
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You can fight the loss of motor stability by using a whole body vibration machine. It's a piece of exercise equipment with a vibrating platform that you stand, sit or lie on. As it vibrates, it transmits energy to your body, forcing the muscles to contract and relax dozens of times each second. This unique form of fitness increases joint and ligament strength, improves muscle tone and engages your natural reflexes. You'll achieve stronger core strength and better balance in just minutes a day.
Life Changing Devices
Another recent aid is the use of a laser light, which helps guide the person through obstacles, move more comfortably, and increases stride length. These have become very popular with the use of walkers and canes. Some other great solutions are products designed specifically to help break freezing episodes. These products include the U Step Walker Advanced Walking Aid, the U Step 2 Walker Laser Light, and the Laser Cane.
The U Step Walker is a great way to help someone suffering from Parkinson's disease and freezing episodes feel comfortable, safe, and secure as they move through space. This unique rollator is designed with a U-shaped base to provide a stable foundation that offers support in every direction. The unique break design helps the user walk more efficiently, as well as aids in standing up or sitting down. It works by slightly squeezing the brake to initiate movement, and to stop simply let go of the brake. The rollator also utilizes a spring-loaded front caster system that allows it to glide easily over uneven surfaces, avoiding sudden jolts.
Another great addition to the U Step 2 Walker for people who experience severe freezing episodes is the U-Step 2 Walker Laser Light. As stated in the above article, this laser light is obstacle-free and acts as a visual cue to help you walk normally with increased stride length, preventing freezing episodes. To use simply attach to the handlebars and push the red button and a bright red line will be displayed on the floor for you to step over.
If you feel the U Step Walker is not what you are looking for, a great second option is the Laser Cane. This particular cane is unique because it displays a laser beam on the ground, providing a target to step over to help overcome freezing episodes. The laser works by simply pushing an on/off button or by the weight activated rubber cane tip, which provides another on/off switch for the laser. The cane itself is also adjustable, ranging from 5'0" to 6'1", allowing for a safe and comfortable way to help break freezing episodes.
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