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Nineteenth century therapy may help Parkinson's patients

United States America,Health/Medicine, Mon, 23 Apr 2012 IANS

Washington, April 22 (IANS) Looking back to the 19th century, researchers in the US are replicating the work of celebrated neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot to help patients of Parkinson's disease.


Charcot had developed a "vibration chair" to relieve symptoms of Parkinson's disease in the 19th century. He reported improvements in his patients, but died shortly thereafter and a more complete evaluation of the therapy was never conducted.


Now, a group of neurological researchers at Rush University Medical Centre in the US are replicating his work to see if Charcot's observations hold true against modern scientific testing.


Results indicate that while vibration therapy does significantly improve some symptoms of Parkinson's disease, the effect is due to placebo or other non-specific factors and not the vibration, the Journal of Parkinson's Disease reports.


"We attempted to mimic Charcot's protocol with modern equipment in order to confirm or refute an historical observation," explains lead investigator Christopher G. Goetz, director of the Parkinson's disease and Movement Disorders Centre at Rush.


"Both the treated group and the control group improved similarly, suggesting other factors had an effect on Parkinson's disease motor function," said Goetz, according to a Rush statement.


Charcot's patients told him that during long carriage rides or train journeys, uncomfortable or painful symptoms of Parkinson's disease seemed to disappear, and the relief lasted quite some time after the journey. He developed a chair that mimicked the continuous jerking of a carriage or train.


Goetz and his colleagues randomly assigned a group of patients to either a vibrating chair or the same chair without vibration. During the treatment sessions, both groups of study participants listened to a relaxation CD of nature sounds. Participants underwent daily treatment for a month.


The patients in the vibration treatment group showed significant improvement in motor function after daily 30-minute treatments for four weeks. Although not as high, motor function scores for the no vibration group also improved significantly.


Both groups showed similar and significant improvement in depression, anxiety, fatigue, and night-time sleep and both groups reported similar high satisfaction with their treatment.


"Our results confirm Charcot's observation of improvement in Parkinson's disease symptomology with chronic vibration treatment, but we did not find the effect specific to vibration," said Goetz.


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