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Health Information Under the Microscope: Testing Vibration Therapy for Parkinson Disease

In keeping with the adage "Everything old is new again," specialists at the Parkinson Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Rush University Medical Center are studying a promising therapy for Parkinson disease that was actually conceived 100-plus years ago.

More than one million Americans are living with Parkinson disease, which slowly steals a person's control over his or her own body movements. At Rush, recent efforts to alter the progression of this debilitating disease have focused on gene therapy to control trophic factors (naturally produced brain chemicals that may prevent or reverse cell degeneration), and deep brain stimulation, in which surgically implanted electrical wires deliver high-voltage stimulation into specific regions of the brain.

A Shaking Discovery
In addition to these state-of-the-art therapies, the center is now looking at a treatment developed by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, the most authoritative doctor of the 19th century for Parkinson disease and other movement disorders.

During the mid-19th century, Charcot discovered patients with Parkinson disease felt better after a lengthy carriage ride. He theorized the shaking and vibrations caused by the bumpy cobblestone streets somehow eased Parkinson disease symptoms. To test the hypothesis, Charcot designed a shaking chair, which was called La Chaire Trépidante, to treat his patients. Reportedly, those who used the shaking chair had less pain and stiffness and improved sleep quality.

"More than 100 years later, we are testing Charcot's observation to see if it really does improve symptoms of Parkinson disease," says Christopher Goetz, MD, director of the Parkinson Disease and Movement Disorders Center and historical biographer of Charcot. "We want to see if his observation holds up to current gold standards of a randomized, controlled study."

Feeling the Vibe
Goetz, who is the lead investigator of the study, and his colleague Sachin Kapur, MD, identified a modernized vibrating chair that mimics the shaking chair developed by Charcot. The new version of the shaking chair is a reclining chair cushion, which contains transducers that are connected to an amplifier and CD player. When the patient sits in the chair, soothing sounds and music are turned on and the acoustics from the CD are pumped through the transducers, generating strong vibrations.

"Vibration therapy is currently used in diverse medical specialties ranging from orthopedics to urology to sports medicine," says Goetz. "This noninvasive treatment may prove to be an effective supplementary therapy for some patients with Parkinson disease."

The study is complete and the data are being analyzed. For more information about studies related to Parkinson disease at Rush or to find out if you are eligible, please contact Lucy Blasucci at (312) 563-2184.

To schedule an appointment with a movement disorders specialist at Rush, call (312) 563-2030.

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You Might Also Like …

  • Check out our video FAQ feature, which highlights some of the frequently asked questions we receive from patients with movement disorders. It also allows you to meet Christopher Goetz, MD, and some of the other movement disorders specialists from Rush, who answer questions on a range of topics, including how Parkinson disease is diagnosed, the role of exercise therapy for Parkinson, and the current state of stem cell therapy for the disease.
  • The award-winning documentary "10 Mountains, 10 Years"  features neurologist Leo Verhagen, MD, PhD, and neurosurgeon Roy Bakay, MD, of the Rush Parkinson Disease and Movement Disorders Center. This stirring documentary tells the story of Parkinson patient Ken Glowienke, who had deep brain stimulation surgery at Rush, and the team of mountain climbers who scaled 10 of the world’s greatest peaks to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson diseases. Read more about "10 Mountains, 10 Years."
  • Watch this video on YouTube featuring Parkinson disease patient Jack Toslosky, who had deep brain stimulation at Rush. The surgery was performed by neurosurgeon Roy Bakay, MD.
  • Stay in touch with Rush with Rush Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more.

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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