Parkinson's Disease and Guided Imagery

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.

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:

  • Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
  • Reduced levels of stress hormones (cortisol)
  • Less pain

There is often a link between Parkinson's and stress, depression, and anxiety, which can also worsen Parkinson's symptoms. Guided imagery might help to:

  • Create a relaxation response that counteracts the stress response
  • Relieve worry, tension, and physical discomfort
  • Improve sleep
  • Restore a sense of calm, control, and motivation

Continued

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.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD on September 16, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Northwest Parkinson's Foundation: "Mindfulness and Relaxation."

University of Michigan: "Guided Imagery."

Academy for Guided Imagery: "What is Guided Imagery?"

Heremans, E. Neurohabil Neural Repair, February 2011.

Hartford Hospital: "Guided Imagery."

Weigensberg, M. J Altern Complement Med, 2009.

Eller, L. Annu Rev Nurs Res, 1999.

Bunting-Perry, L. Comprehensive Nursing Care for Parkinson's Disease, Springer Publishing, 2007.

Schlesinger, I. Mov Disord, Oct. 30, 2009.

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