Lasers for Parkinson’s: Heading in the “Light Direction”!
Posted: 12/10/2018 9:39 AM by
Contributed by Cynthia Mitchell RN
A couple of years ago, I went to visit one of my clients who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease (PD). As I sat down to chat, he began telling me all about his “new high-tech walking buddy”. I had to admit, his new walker was pretty sleek, all black and looking pretty tricked out with large wheels and this red laser light shining out from the side when he turned it on.
Then he tells me that its practically magic, as he is walking so much more smoothly with very few freezing episodes. And he was right, he WAS walking better! Intrigued, and excited about the prospect of helping others, I began looking into why this walker was helping. It was the laser light. Here’s the scoop:
In 1999, patient Stan Clark of Old Forge, NY, noticed that when his legs stopped, looking at patterns on the floor sometimes helped him start moving again. A retired glazier, Clark etched a line in his glasses so that when he looked down, he saw the line, which helped him begin walking again but the line obscured his vision. Then he tried a flashlight, shining the beam at the spot he wanted to walk toward and trying to step on the spot. But the flashlight's beam spread out too much.
Then Clark thought of a laser pointer. "I looked at the laser spot, and my feet just seemed to go to it," he said. His discovery prompted researchers to try to figure out why and how to use this information to help others. Here’s what they found:
There is a part of our brains responsible for initiating and maintaining the movement of walking. When this area gets damaged as a result of PD, the signals often can’t get to the motor cortex (the area of the brain responsible for sending the message out to the rest of the body), and people experience very slow gait or freezing of gait.
By watching the laser’s red line, the person concentrates on a different task. That makes their brain send signals along a different path to the motor cortex, avoiding the damaged areas where those signals get jammed.
The result? Smoother, faster gait, dramatic decrease in freezing episodes, and quicker recovery when a freezing episode does occur. Essentially, using the laser light capitalizes on the parts of the brain that are working well to help compensate for the parts that are not.
In the past couple of years, walkers and canes have been developed using laser lights, and many people have found them to really help. Currently, researchers are working with laser pointer shoes! Yup! Shoes! Cool, right!?
For more information on Parkinson’s disease, including educational resources and current research, please visit:
“Strength is found in each of us. For those of us with Parkinson’s, we use our personal strengths of character to bolster our hope, courage, mindfulness/contentment/gratitude, determination, and the will to survive. Stay strong. Stay hopeful. Stay educated. Stay determined. Stay persistent. Stay courageous. Stay positive. Stay wholehearted. Stay mindful. Stay happy. Stay you.”
Frank C. Church
Interim HealthCare of the Capital Region, with offices in Albany and Glens Falls NY, is your local Homecare provider offering licensed nursing, personal care, and staffing services in Upstate NY for over 47 years.