Good Vibrations for Parkinson's

FRESNO, Calif.

If Dale Voelker had his way, the golf course would be his office. "I wish I could golf every day," Voelker told Ivanhoe.

Two years ago, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's and thought his days on the links were over.

"They keep saying there's a cure around the corner, cure around the corner, but I don't know. I can't wait," Voelker said.

His meds made him nauseous and drowsy, so he joined a clinical study for a more tolerable treatment.

"It's very relaxing. It puts me to sleep almost every time," Voelker said.

"It" is a vibration chair. The cushion connects to an amplifier.

"It's almost like there's a big subwoofer in the mattress that vibrates the entire body," Dr. Sachin Kapur, from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, told Ivanhoe.

"They're sound waves that generate very strong vibrations. This is not a little buzz. This is not a little massage. This is a very strong vibration," Christopher Goetz, M.D., from Rush University Medical Center, explained to Ivanhoe.

It's based off the work of a 19th century French doctor.

"He noticed that patients who went on a carriage ride or train trip, when they descended from the carriage, their Parkinsonism was much less," Dr. Goetz said.

Experts say the vibrations travel through the spinal cord to the brain, which may help with basic motor skills.

A Canadian study showed vibration therapy improved gait, stability and posture. It also decreased tremors and rigidity and helped those who didn't respond to standard meds.

"It goes for about 40 minutes, and by the time I'm done, I've almost stopped shaking," Voelker said. The chair isn't a cure, but it's how Voelker spells relief.

"It's like I get a little break," he said.

The current study is still enrolling Parkinson's patients at Rush University Medical Center. Patients sit in the chair for 30 minutes a day -- for one month.

Teresa Chmura
Study Coordinator, Rush University Medical Center
(312) 942-8002

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