Friday, 20 January 2017

Does Drumming Improve Parkinson's Disease Symptoms?

You probably only know of Parkinson's disease as a shambling, unstoppable monster slowly destroying the health of family or friends if you're unlucky, or celebrities like Michael J Fox if your fortunes are better. So it sounds unbelievable that something drumming could improve the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, right? Actually, that's what a new study is suggesting, as interest in natural alternatives continues to grow because of the frequent failures and toxicities of pharmaceutical drugs.

A djembe.
The study, published in mid-2016, involved 10 patients assigned to twice-weekly West African drumming classes, and 10 matched controls who also had Parkinson's disease. Both groups completed the Parkinson's Disease Questionnaire (PDQ-39), the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) and motor and cognitive tests by someone who didn't know which patient was assigned to what group. After the first six weeks of the twelve-week study, drummers had significantly improved PDQ-39 scores, with an average improvement of 5.8 points. The drummers also improved their walking ability, but this was not seen as "significant". The "P-value", which measures the likelihood that the intervention had an effect on the patients' health, was 0.069; "statistically significant" improvements need a P-value of less than 0.05. However, a value of 0.069 still means that there was a 93.1% chance that the drumming was responsible for the improvements to their health! Considering that they have nothing to lose by drumming, it may be considered as good enough by many. The PDQ-39 test asks 39 questions to do with physical abilities such as walking and writing, as well as a few on mental state and social life. As drumming could easily reduce scores by 5-6 points by solely improving the mental state and social factors, it is also important to see the improvements in walking.

But...why drumming? It turns out that drumming has extremely ancient origins, for several reasons. Even certain species of insects, some of the first animals to live on land, use drumming for communication. In some cases, antennal drumming can even alter the development of larvae, determining whether they end up as workers or reproductive females! It is theorised that drumming, by its rhythmic vibration/sound, could affect epigenetic expression. Studies on humans have also found other health benefits. In one trial, both older and younger drummers showed a drop in stress and anxiety from taking djembe lessons, and in the older participants systolic blood pressure dropped. In another, active participation in music, whether it be singing, dancing or drumming, resulted in a higher pain tolerance through increased endorphin levels. Simply listening to music had no effect. Others have found some quite shocking improvements with drumming lessons. Huntington's disease is a genetic neurodegenerative disorder considered to be fatal and irreversible. However, two months of drumming lessons caused improvements in executive function and improvements to white matter structure, especially in the tissue that connects both hemispheres of the brain. Drumming could also boost immunity: a trial on 111 people found that it increased DHEA-cortisol ratios and improved immune cell activity. Despite being a fun hobby and not a medical intervention, drumming has actually been shown to improve multiple aspects of physical and mental health, though more research should be done to determine any specific benefits from specific styles, frequencies or rhythms.

No comments:

Post a Comment