When I was in massage school, one requirement was to conduct a case study. My father had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and so he began exercising regularly at a YMCA in Maryland with a group called Pedal for Parkinson’s. Since then, I learned there are many groups and therapies geared specifically for this population – the BIG program, Rock Steady Boxing, and even SportRock Climbing for Parkinson’s.
The study I conducted sought to analyze what benefits massage would have for the participants in the Pedal for Parkinson’s program. Over a period of 4-6 weeks, 4 participants were given a 20-minute clothed massage immediately after their workouts, at least once and possibly 3 times per week.
While I expected an improvement in their pedaling power, what I observed was more than that. The value of human touch is difficult to measure scientifically. One client moved from a recumbent bike up to a seated one; this was a huge development for her and for the entire class, instructors included. Her confidence improved and she felt she was fighting back against the disease threatening to impact her mobility.
Another gentleman surprised me in his video interview. He said as the treatments progressed, he noticed a cumulative effect on his muscles; the tightness “stayed away” longer after the 3rd week of treatment. He and I attributed this to the frequency of treatments and the combination of muscle activity followed immediately by massage. He noticed he was able to pedal faster and with more power. This is important because studies showed that for maximum effectiveness of the program, achieving a prescribed RPM (revolutions per minute) for a defined time was necessary.
As a massage student, this project taught me so much about people, exercise, comorbid conditions, and Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, lending my hands to help in this way inspired, fueled and fulfilled my ambition to support people’s health goals through massage.