Alternative Treatments for Parkinson's Disease

The term alternative therapy, in general, is used to describe any medical treatment or intervention that has not been scientifically documented or identified as safe or effective for a specific condition. Alternative therapy encompasses a variety of disciplines including acupuncture, guided imagery, chiropractic, yoga, hypnosis, biofeedback, aromatherapy, relaxation, herbal remedies, massage, and many others.

Vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, and uric acid are examples of alternative treatments that have been studied as treatments for Parkinson's disease. However, they were found not to be effective or may even have harmful side effects.

Other Alternative Treatments for Parkinson's Disease?

  • Exercise. Although not necessarily an "alternative therapy," exercises like Tai chi and yoga can lower stress, help you to be more relaxed, and increase energy, balance, and flexibility. In general, exercise is a safe, effective and easy way to improve well-being. But, check with your doctor first.
  • Diet. By following your doctor's and dietitian's nutritional guidelines, you can look and feel better.
  • Positive Attitude. Having a positive outlook cannot cure Parkinson's disease, but it can lower stress and help you feel better!

How Can I Know If an Alternative Treatment Is Safe and Effective?

Alternative treatments can be helpful in some cases, yet some therapies can be ineffective, costly, and even dangerous. The best way to evaluate your options is to become educated. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the treatment?
  • What does it involve?
  • How does it work?
  • Why does it work?
  • Are there any risks?
  • What are the side effects?
  • Is it effective? (Ask for evidence or proof.)
  • How much does it cost?

Once you answer these questions, weigh your options and decide whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

If you do decide to try an alternative treatment, make sure your health is protected. Do not take the claim at face value: contact reliable organizations and discuss the therapy. Talk to others in a support group, your family and friends; although they may not always be supportive, they can help you make an educated, objective decision.

Discuss the therapy with your doctor. Make sure your doctor knows what therapy you are considering so he or she can discuss possible interactions and/or side effects with your current treatments. He or she can also provide you with information on other patients who may have tried the same therapy.

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Contact the Better Business Bureau and thoroughly research the background of the therapy provider. Determine how long they have been providing this therapy, what credentials they have, and what their philosophy of treatment is. Avoid therapy providers who refuse or are reluctant to work with your doctor. Be sure that the provider is willing to refer patients to a conventional doctor when necessary.

And, lastly, make sure you know the cost of treatment up front. Most alternative therapies are not covered by your insurance.

Alternative Treatment Red Flags to Look for Include:

  • How the product/provider is promoted. Be cautious if products or providers are promoted through: telemarketers; direct mailings; infomercials; ads disguised as valid news articles; ads in the back of magazines.
  • Big claims. If a provider or product claims to be a "cure" for Parkinson's disease, or gives outrageous claims, be cautious.
  • Source. Beware if the product is only being offered through one doctor or manufacturer.
  • Ingredients. Make sure all of the active ingredients are listed. Do not trust "secret formulas."
  • Testimonials. Keep in mind that testimonials are only given by those who are satisfied with the product. And, if the ad says, "paid endorsement," know that the person is getting compensated to say what the manufacturer wants them to say.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on November 11, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

National Parkinson Foundation: "Complementary Treatment."

Parkinsons.org: "Parkinson's Disease Alternative Medicine."

Mayo Clinic: "Parkinson's Disease: Alternative Medicine."

Parkinson's Disease Society: "Complementary Therapies and Parkinson's Disease."

 

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