I first wrote about photobiomodulation (PBM) for Parkinson’s two years ago. In that post, I described an exercise class called “Pedaling for Parkinson’s.” The promotional page for the class mentioned research that showed pedaling can reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s. This inspired my idea that PBM might make you feel well enough to pedal at the 80-90 rpms needed to get the benefit.
Pedaling for Parkinson’s
A neuroscientist named Jay Alberts discovered the benefits of pedaling in 2003 on an annual bike tour called RAGBRAI. (The name stands for Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.) Alberts rode a tandem bicycle with Cathy Frazier, a woman living with Parkinson’s. He noticed her tremors and handwriting improved during the ride. She herself reported that during the ride she didn’t even feel like she had Parkinson’s. Alberts confirmed with UPDRS-Part III Motor Exam that her motor symptoms had improved by 35%.
Alberts and Frazier went on to found Pedaling for Parkinson’s. The organization offers indoor stationary cycling classes. It also explores how physical activity impacts motor symptoms in Parkinson’s. Pedaling For Parkinson’s classes meet every week in locations across the country. The organization is now conducting classes online: see the PFP website for details.
Pain Relief Promotes Exercise
Everybody experiences Parkinson’s in their own way. But one of the most common ways is pain: muscle pain, back pain, pins and needles, joint pain. And pain can dampen your enthusiasm for exercise. PBM, however, tends to reduce pain — as I have previously noted here, here, and here. If it reduces your pain enough to make you feel like getting on a stationary bike and pedaling for an hour at 80 rpm, then it will be worth incorporating into your Parkinson’s management.
In addition, there is a growing volume of research (some of it is summarized here) showing that photobiomodulation itself can be therapeutic for Parkinson’s. These clinical studies are usually done with LED-lined helmets or hats. If you’re living with Parkinson’s, you should ask your doctor about such helmets. Some of the research shows convincing evidence of reduced dopamine loss.
Photobiomodulation for Parkinson’s
At Peak Recovery & Health Center, we don’t offer PBM through hats or helmets. What we offer is whole-body PBM in an LED-lined bed. I have never been able to find any research that compares whole-body PBM to helmet PBM. Perhaps one of those helmets can get your head (and therefore your brain) several centimeters closer to the light source. And if you’re living with Parkinson’s, your brain is probably where you most need the benefit. But I also know you’re bound to get some brain effect from whole-body PBM, plus the additional benefit to the cells throughout your entire body.
To sum up, there are two reasons PBM can make your life better if you’re living with Parkinson’s. The first reason is that it may give you enough pain relief to make stationary cycling more attractive to you. And there is good reason to believe regularly pedaling for an hour at 80-90 rpm can reduce your motor symptoms by about one third. The second reason is that there is evidence that PBM itself can help reduce the rate of dopamine loss in Parkinson’s cases. This evidence is for helmet PBM, but there’s no reason to think it doesn’t extend at least somewhat to whole-body PBM.
In any case, PBM is a noninvasive procedure proved safe through many, many thousands of uses. Most users say whole-body PBM makes them feel good, too. Book a PBM session today.