THERAPEUTIC TOUCH  Massage therapist Craig Smith has been able to provide relief to Grace Sander from some of her Parkinsons symptoms.  Photo by Breanne Massey

THERAPEUTIC TOUCH Massage therapist Craig Smith has been able to provide relief to Grace Sander from some of her Parkinsons symptoms.Photo by Breanne Massey

Registered massage therapist Craig Smith has given hope to patient Grace Sander who has been living with the challenges of Parkinsons disease for over 15 years.

The 70-year-old Invermere resident was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease in 1998 after she noticed a hand tremor while working at the sawmill.

At that time, they didnt have any diagnosis for Parkinsons so they just eliminated everything else so we assumed and carried on from there, said Ms. Sander, noting exercise has helped her stay healthy in spite of the disease. I exercise, exercise, exercise and thats what I find works the best of all.

Parkinsons disease is a progressive problem in the nervous system that is easily recognized by tremors, muscle rigidity and slow movements among middle-aged and elderly people. It is associated with the degeneration of the basal ganglia (a connection of grey matter in the brain that helps co-ordinate movements) and a deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine (the brains communicating chemical).

But five years ago, Ms. Sanders health began to steadily deteriorate and she could no longer use exercise to cope with the challenges of the disease.

I started to deteriorate quite badly and I wasnt able to do the things that I wanted to do, she explained. I started getting weak and tired, which is just part of Parkinsons the degeneration.

But this year, Ms. Sander sought out an alternative avenue to alleviate the debilitating symptoms and promote her health and wellness.

I started seeing Craig this year and hes done absolute marvels for me, she said. When he starts out, Im moving like I am now, but as soon as he gets working on me, I start relaxing and can start moving completely.

Mr. Smith provides weekly massage treatments to Ms. Sander to help reduce rigidity in muscles throughout her body, which often leads to back pain, headaches, poor respiration, decreased mobility and inflammation.

We initially just worked on her upper body and now weve gone into full body routines, said Mr. Smith, noting the road to rehabilitation will be ongoing. It basically started off as a detailed assessment. After some pretty extensive research on how massage therapy can benefit Parkinsons, we began our treatment plan. We have since progressed from 30-minute treatments to 45-minute treatments.

He believes the treatments can help prevent resting tremors, impaired speech and diminished dexterity of the limbs

Massage therapy helps quiet the autonomic nervous system, which is essentially responsible for Graces resting tremors and once the overall general feeling of relaxation is initiated, her tremors basically quieten within about 15 minutes of indoor treatment. On top of the relaxation part of this, it also has a bit of a mental relaxation aspect to it, so the overall feeling of release is incredibly helpful for all kinds of things for Parkinsons patients such as poor posture, poor respiration, back pain, stomach problems and mobility.

He is eager to help treat other people living with Parkinsons disease now that Ms. Sander has responded positively.

Grace is my first and only patient with Parkinsons disease, so maybe after this, well get some more people keen on it, said Mr. Smith.

For more information about the benefits of massage for Parkinsons disease or to book an appointment, call Mr. Smith at 250-688-1115.