2 -Rehabilitation from Parkinson’s disease – music is magical!

Music is magical! A large part of my rehabilitation work involving dance, walking and other movement to music with 120 beats per minute. Music allows us to bypass the frontal cortex and reconnect lost neurocircuitry. With my functional paralysis this is extremely important. Because of my Parkinson’s my body also tries to inhibit movement, music helps me bypass this inhibition. We don’t know actually what is so special about 120 bpm but those that work with music in rehabilitation have found it seems to be the best for inducing neuroplasticity. It’s funny but a lot of the pop music I love but am kind of embarrassed to love is 120 bpm. It’s like our brains are evolutionarily tuned into that beat. There is an added benefit to listening to music from a time in your life when your body was normal as music is excellent at taking us back in time both emotionally and physically.

The rehabilitation program Joaquin Farias set up for me has five basic goals

  • Wake up my muscles that are hypotonic and reestablishing brain connections to them
  • Get rid of the rigidity in my body
  • Reconnect my left and right brain
  • Help my body stay in parasympathic most of the time
  • Help my body to make it’s our dopamine again at normal levels

This is done through

  • Mirroring – using my functional right side to re teach my left – if both sides are abnormal you can mirror another person
  • Passive movement – in my case this can be someone else moving my body or my right hand moving my left side
  • Active movement – dance, walking, and reputations of exercises that help to remap my nervous system. Many of these are done in repetitions of twenty, six to twenty times a day
  • Exercises that increase my heart rate
  • Stretching

My program is individual to my body and symptoms but I do want to share as much as I can, as I believe it is helpful for others with movement disorders to know there are options out there.

So one of the most transformative parts of my rehabilitation plan is something Joaquin calls forced walking. With my disease my brain tries to inhibit my movements, one part says go forward and one part says stop at the same time. This makes walking feel like sludging through molasses. By using music and walking to the beat the body is able to bypass my brains inhibition. So every day I walk for forty minutes straight to the rhythm of 120bpm music. This was extremely difficult at first and required intense mental and physical energy. One of my arms has no swing anymore and walking fast caused extreme pressure to build in my shoulder so that it burned and felt like it would break. Joaquin says this is a good thing and the burning is my nervous system rewiring and mapping my arm. I also get extreme tremor as that arm is pushed to reprogram. Joaquin says as we move into normality again the tremor will increase and to always allow the tremor.

At first my walks were hard the whole time but over a week they have gotten easier. Now it only takes a block or less before my body kicks into fairly normal walking. The burning is now in my shoulder, elbow, wrist and sometimes fingers. This is a good sign that the mapping is moving down my arm. I now ever get a small arm swing for most of my walk, only an inch or two but I’m confident that will increase. The wonderful part is that after the walks I feel almost normal. At first this was just for 10-15 minutes but now it is for 5-7 hours.

My walks work better than drugs! They naturally help me make dopamine in addition as remapping my functional paralysis side. I can feel it happening and often times break into a smile – something that is hard when you have Parkinson’s. I now have a choice – walk, dance, or Sinemet. I usually only need to use Sinemet about every 40 hours and just half a pill.

Odd things are starting to happen as my hand remaps. It will put itself into odd positions. Yesterday and today it would start playing the violin which I have not played since I was twelve! Today I went with it and started bowing with my right hand to match until I got a very weird look from a guy watering his yard. My hand is starting to remember again!

Last night I was with some friends and brought out my 120 playlist to show them. As soon as I started playing one of the songs I could feel my dopamine increase. I’ve become like Pavlov’s dog in less than two weeks – the music alone can now trigger my cells to make dopamine!

The magic of neuroplasicity is amazing to me. This is just the beginning for me and I’m excited to see where it will take me! We CAN reprogram our brains to heal and music seems to be the key that unlocks the magic!

Thank you Joaquin Farias!

How to find music with 120bpm

Joaquin Farias’ book Limitless

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