Feldenkrais for PD Study Results

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Feldenkrais Method Exercise Promising for Parkinson's

Laird Harrison
May 28, 2015

PALM SPRINGS, California — An exercise program based on the Feldenkrais Method can improve the mood and quality of life among people with Parkinson's disease, a new study shows.

By damaging neurologic functioning, Parkinson's disease often diminishes quality of life and leads to depression. 

"The Feldenkrais Method uses easy movement and breath control and flexibility and balance to facilitate more control in the whole body," said first author Lavinia Teixeira-Machado, PT, PhD, from the Education in Health Department, Federal University of Sergipe in Sergipe, Brazil. "I use it in cerebral palsy, autism, and Down syndrome."

"We reduced the isolation," said Dr Teixeira-Machado told Medscape Medical News. "It's very interesting."

She presented the finding here at the American Pain Society (APS) 34th Annual Scientific Meeting. 

Whole-Body Exercise

To see whether the Feldenkrais Method could help with Parkinson's disease, Dr Teixeira-Machado and her colleagues administered the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), the Parkinson's Disease Quality of Life (PDQL) questionnaire, and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) to 36 people with Parkinson's.

They excluded four people from further study because of cognitive impairment, cardiopathy, or advanced impairment. Two others declined to participate.

The researchers then randomly assigned 15 of the patients to instruction in exercises based on the Feldenkrais Method. The remaining 15 got educational lectures. Both groups attended 50 one-hour sessions, with two sessions given per week.

The patients had an average age of 61 years, an average weight of 64 kg, an average height of 159 cm, and an average body mass index of 26 kg/m2. These measures did not statistically significantly differ between the two groups.

The groups were also statistically similar at baseline on the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rate Scale Part III (UPDRS III), the MMSE, and the BDI.

After the 50 sessions, the researchers tested the patients once again on the PDQL and the BDI. The group receiving Feldenkrais instruction improved significantly on both quality of life and depression while the control group got slightly worse on both scales.

The change in the Feldenkrais group compared with baseline was statistically significant for both PDQL (P = .004) and BDI (P = .0005).

The differences between the Feldenkrais group and the control group were also statistically significant for both PDQL (P = .002) and BDI (P = .05). 

"People with Parkinson's have all kinds of trouble with movement, so if we can modify that it would be great," said Kathleen Sulka, PT, PhD, a professor of physical therapy at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

But other exercise programs have also proved beneficial for people with Parkinson's disease, she said, so she would like to see a larger study in which some patients practiced the Feldenkrais Method and others practiced different exercises.

"I see this as a wonderful pilot study," she told Medscape Medical News.

The study was funded by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnológico. Dr Teixeira-Machado and Dr Sulka have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American Pain Society (APS) 34th Annual Scientific Meeting. Presented May 14, 2015.