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Why do I experience tremors in Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder, which is a disease that is characterised by a gradual deterioration or damage to cells and nervous system connections that are important in maintaining the body’s coordination, movement, strength, sensation and cognition.

 

There are a lot of symptoms associated with PD, for example physical disorders via the slowing of movement and a shuffled walking pattern, as well as mood disorders such as depression and apathy. Other symptoms affect cognition through symptoms such as memory deficits and behavioural disorders. One of the most common symptoms of PD is a resting tremor of the relaxed hand, lower limb, jaw, tongue or foot.

 

But how do we explain these tremors, and how is it linked to PD?

What is causing my tremor?

One of the major chemical signallers in our brain is Dopamine. Dopamine has an important job of sending messages between our nerve cells, as well as aid in allowing us to think, plan, focus and experience pleasure. It is also one of the most important chemicals involved in the planning and execution of the movement of our body. PD affects the signalling power of a type of neuron (communication cells in the brain) in the specific part of the brain that controls movement. This is done through a progressive degeneration of those neurons, which leads to your body creating less dopamine. Due to the reduction of dopamine in your brain, there is a significant chemical imbalance, and this results in a defective transmission of signals that causes a rhythmic movement pattern that is reflected as a tremor.

Is it possible to resolve this tremor?

The most common forms of treatment for tremors in PD revolve around a pharmaceutical approach, with medications prescribed by doctors often being the first line of treatment. In cases where first line medications are ineffective, second line medications can be prescribed. However, there are cases where patients with PD are resistant to all forms of medication, and often a neurological surgery is considered the next best line of treatment.

However, in recent times, studies have begun to show the benefits of exercise in the treatment of tremors in people with PD. Research has found that different forms of exercise, including upper and lower body movements and cycling and hand movements, were effective in reducing the severity of the tremors, aided in improving general function in the hands and increased overall quality of life. 

Additionally, exercise has been shown to improve other symptoms that are linked to PD, such as an improvement in a person’s walking ability, coordination and grasping strength for activities that required a finer control in movement. It is also shown to improve the comorbidities that are often associated with the physical disabilities caused by PD, such as an improved cardiovascular fitness and increased strength, resulting in a decrease in mortality risk and improved functionality.