I watched a wonderful Ted Talk about an alternative approach for treating Dystonia(1) that someone posted in my online PD support group. It was so inspiring that I was driven to research the source. I was able to track down Dr. Jaquin Farias(2), the doctor who had worked with Frederico Bitti, the speaker in the talk. It took some time to open a dialogue with Dr. Farias. Once I did I decided to travel to Toronto to work with him, in the hopes that he could help me recover from the symptoms of spasticity and dystonia that came with the PD diagnosis I had received. I had already done some neuroplastic training when working with Dr. Kaplan (see my post on Functional Neurology), so I knew it could be very powerful and effective.
After watching Dr. Farias’ speak in another Ted Talk(3) I was very excited and hopeful. I have to say that I was expecting magical and immediate results. This is what we all hope for I think, some magic pill or event that will make things as they were when we could take our health for granted. Had I read his website more thoroughly though, I would have had more realistic expectations. Retraining the brain/body is a process requiring diligence and consistency. Results do not come overnight. Nonetheless I was aware of a subtle change after just four days of our work together. So it seemed the process had indeed begun after just four days.
Working with Dr. Farias was profound because he addressed every aspect of my experience. He broadened my perspective and reminded me that I have a choice… it is my body and I can recover function. His insight into the workings of the body and brain are comprehensive and his explanation of their processes very accessible.
We talked about the impact of the modern brain on the primitive brain and the effects of trauma on each of them. We took an inventory of my movement and discussed the proper mechanics of the body for normal movement. From my understanding it seems that PD symptoms are those of regression. As we develop after birth we travel from pronation, inward and closed, to supination, outward and open. After birth, semi-closed hands learn to open and utilize a variety of grips. From immobility we develop and acquire strength and balance. PD leads us back to pronation, and back to being uncertain of our balance. Just like toddlers our walking is a series of front-heavy falls forward. But just like babies and toddlers we can learn the basics of movement, all over again, and retrain our body/brain connection.
Dr. Farias gave me exercises for every part of my body, including my eyes. He highlighted the importance of crossing the midline of the body. Practicing Qigong or other soft martial arts is one very easy way to incorporate this task, and comes with additional benefits (see my post on Qigong).
I have done Dr. Farias exercises daily—with a few skips—for six months and I’ve seen improvements. The first noticeable change was a softening of muscles that had been very hypertonic, or constantly flexed, and more energy and aliveness in the tissue. My toes and fingers are more flexible and responsive to nerve impulses, that is, when I direct them to move in a certain way, they are more apt to do so. As of today my balance is also greatly improved.
The most challenging part of recovering from PD or other illnesses involving brain function is patience. It is important to remain open and hopeful while waiting to see dramatic improvements, and essential to make sure to acknowledge little ones.
Dr. Farias also recommended 40 minutes per day of walking and 30 minutes of dancing but I have slacked on this part of the program, I am sad to say. I can only imagine how much better I would be if I were more rigorous in my commitment to the full program. What can I say, I am working on it.