Parkinson's and Complementary Health Treatments
Editor’s note: If you’re struggling with Parkinson’s, or have a loved one who is, it may be tempting to try complementary health treatments in addition to conventional medicine. But how good are these remedies? Here, experts from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, one of the National Institutes of Health, offer an overview. (As always, please consult your doctor before using any remedies outlined below.)
MIND AND BODY PRACTICES
There is some evidence that tai chi, along with medication, may improve some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as balance and functional mobility.
The Evidence Base
The evidence base on efficacy of tai chi for symptoms of Parkinson’s disease consists of several randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews and meta-analyses.
A 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis of 15 randomized controlled trials involving 799 participants found positive evidence of tai chi plus medication for Parkinson’s disease for improvements in motor function, balance, and functional reach; however, no significant difference was found between tai chi plus medication and medication alone for gait or quality of life.
A 2015 systematic review of 64 studies of nonpharmacologic [non-drug] approaches to improve balance in Parkinson’s disease found some evidence that tai chi may help improve balance and motor control abilities; however, a 2013 randomized controlled trial showed that 16 weeks of tai chi training were ineffective in gait performance, gait initiation, or the reduction of disability related to Parkinson’s disease.
A 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis of seven randomized controlled trials and one non-randomized controlled trial involving a total of 470 participants found that tai chi showed beneficial effects in improving motor function, balance, and functional mobility in participants with Parkinson’s disease, but not in improving gait velocity, step length, or gait endurance. However, when compared to other active therapies, tai chi only showed better effects in improving balance.
A 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis of 10 randomized controlled trials involving a total of 409 participants with mild-to-moderate Parkinson’s disease concluded that tai chi, performed with medication, resulted in improvements in mobility and balance.
Tai chi is generally considered safe for most people. A 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis of 10 randomized controlled trials concluded that tai chi was safe and popular among participants with Parkinson’s disease who are at an early stage of disease.