Guided imagery is a relaxation technique that uses positive mental images to influence how you feel. It can enhance your traditional Parkinson's treatment. But it does not replace traditional treatment.
Guided imagery is an ancient practice that includes simple visualization. It is a safe and simple technique. Almost anyone can do it.
Usually, the outward symptoms of Parkinson's are distinctive enough for a doctor to make a diagnosis in the office. Tests can help your doctor determine whether you have Parkinson's disease or some other type of parkinsonism. If you don't have a response to the drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease, you may have one of these other types of movement disorders and your doctor will probably continue to search for the cause of your symptoms.
Guided imagery focuses on images. But this type of imagery helps you harness all your senses -- sight, taste, sound, smell, and sensation. This helps you connect to your inner resources for improving health.
With guided imagery, you use your imagination to create relaxing or positive images and experiences. Your body interprets these as real. So this can also have a very real impact on your physical health.
How do you do guided imagery?
You can do guided imagery in the comfort of your home. Or, to get started, you can see a professional who is certified in performing guided imagery.
A practitioner may encourage you to first try to release tension. To start, it can help to focus on your breathing and heart rate.
Next, imagine a relaxing, safe, happy, or peaceful place. For example, you might imagine a warm beach or a quiet forest. This all causes your body to release calming chemicals.
You can create your own images or listen to imagery created for you. Or you can buy CDs or download guided visualizations from the Internet. It may help to listen to a sample of a recording first to see if the person's voice has a calming effect on you.
Whether you create your own images or another person coaches you, soon you will intuitively learn which images are most helpful to you.
What are the benefits of guided imagery for Parkinson's?
Guided imagery has many proven benefits. For example, it can create effects in your body related to lowered stress. This includes:
There is often a link between Parkinson's and stress, depression, and anxiety, which can also worsen its symptoms. Guided imagery might help to:
Create a relaxation response that counteracts the stress response
Relieve worry, tension, and physical discomfort
Restore a sense of calm, control, and motivation
Although research is limited, researchers have shown that guided imagery can help with symptoms such as tremor. In a small study, Israeli researchers compared improvements gained by relaxation guided imagery (RGI) and relaxing music in 20 patients with moderate to severe tremor.
The technique greatly decreased tremor in all 20 patients. In 15 patients, tremor stopped completely for up to 13 minutes and remained reduced 30 minutes after the patients stopped the technique. Some improvement lasted for up to 14 hours. Relaxing music also helped, but was not as effective as guided imagery.