Conventional therapies focus on treating the underlying causes of symptoms associated with disease. By contrast, complementary therapies aim to manage symptoms, ease pain, reduce stress and improve quality of life.
Complementary therapies include physical, occupational, and speech therapies. In addition to these conventional complementary therapies, more unconventional complementary therapies useful to those with Parkinson's disease (PD) include mind and body practices (yoga, meditation, stress management), manipulative therapies (massage, chiropractic, acupuncture), alternative medical systems (cannabis, homeopathy, Ayurveda, Chinese medicine), and energy therapies (Reiki, Qi Gong).
Here are some resources to help understand which complementary therapies may be beneficial for those with PD and those that are not.
Published by the MSA Trust, March 2016
This 6-page fact sheet (PDF) teaches the difference between complementary and alternative therapies and how to evaluate whether they are safe and effective for the expense, as most are not covered by medical insurance. It explains 15 complementary therapies and their possible benefit.
Published by Parkinson’s UK, March 2015
This 76-page booklet (PDF) is for people interested in using complementary therapies alongside their Parkinson’s treatment, to help them manage their Parkinson’s symptoms. It explains and evaluates 24 complementary therapies for the type of assistance that may be gained and associated risks for each.
Published by the Parkinson's Foundation
This webpage starts by saying cannabis has not been demonstrated to directly benefit people with Parkinson’s, and goes on to explain the science and pharmacology behind marijuana, and the risks and benefits for people with Parkinson’s. Links to four PD-related medical marijuana studies are provided.
By Rachel Dolhun, MD. Published by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, October 2, 2019
This is a good article for people looking for research results on the effectiveness of marijuana in treating various symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (PD). There isn’t much and this article explains why not and how difficult it can be to obtain medical grade marijuana.
Published by the American Parkinson Disease Association
This extensive web page explains what mucuna pruriens is, why it is thought to be a treatment for Parkinson's symptoms, the history of its testing as a Parkinson's treatment, and the pros and cons of trying it yourself.
Published by the Parkinsons Foundation
This webpage links to descriptions of many kinds of herbs, vitamins and supplements which support or complement Western or traditional medicine including antioxidant vitamins C and E, calcium and vitamin D, Coenzyme Q10, ginger, folate, green tea, medical marijuana, vitamin B12 and more.
Published by the Davis Phinney Foundation, August 7, 2018
The options to help people with Parkinson's live well are not limited to conventional medicine and DBS. This list of 19 complementary therapies people associated with the Davis Phinney Foundation Blog experimented with, under the care of their medical team, in an attempt to reduce symptoms even more.
By Fred Scott. Published by the Davis Phinney Foundation, August 14, 2018
A first hand account of one man's experience adding a physical therapist, speech therapist and occupational therapist to his already diligent exercise routine. Fred was evaluated before and after a six-week trial adding 'big maximal daily exercises', speaking with more 'intent,' like talking to the back of a large audience, and exercises designed to reawaken fine motor skills and muscles needed to do simple things. He improved so much his daughter said she felt like she got her Dad back.
By the Davis Phinney Foundation
In this 8-minute video Dr. Benzi Kluger takes an evidence-based approach to discuss the risks and potential benefits of a wide range of non-medication, complementary therapies, from yoga, tai chi and dance to nutritional supplements, cannibidoil and medical marijuana.
By the American Parkinson Disease Association, August 4, 2021
During the pandemic, movement disorders specialist Britt Stone, MD, trained in integrative medicine, the practice of integrating traditional remedies and modern medicine in treatment of the whole person (mind, body, and soul). In this episode of Dr. Gilbert Hosts, she speaks for about 20-minutes about complementary therapies to relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety, pain, stiffness, insomnia, nausea, bloating, and memory, before answering questions for another 20-minutes.
By the Parkinson's Foundation, March 4, 2022
In this one hour, 15-minute webinar movement disorders specialist Natalia Diaz, MD, talked about how complementary therapies manage symptoms, ease pain, reduce stress and improve quality of life. Nearly half of all people with PD utilize some form of complementary therapy. These therapies are often identified on the internet and frequently not reported to physicians. Treating physicians are sometimes unaware of such treatments, including their rationale, mechanisms, potential efficacy, and possible adverse effects. Dr. Diaz explored in detail the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of complementary therapies and how to talk with your doctor about integrating them into your treatment plan.
By the Parkinson’s Foundation, April 17, 2018
In this 1-hour webinar Dr. Benzi M. Kluger reviews what cannabis is, how it works in the brain and why there is so much excitement about its potential in PD, before reviewing animal and basic science studies suggesting some promise in treating motor symptoms and slowing PD progression. Finally Dr. Kluger reviews evidence to date in human studies, suggestions for future research and practical advice for persons interested in trying cannabis-based products.
By the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation, 2017
In this 39-minute lecture, filmed at the 2017 HOPE Conference, Naturopathic Doctor, Jade Stafano, speaks about marijuana in the context of Parkinson’s disease. She does an excellent job of explaining the constituents of marijuana effective in treating various symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, the possible adverse reactions, the importance of using medical grade marijuana and various consumption methods.
By the Michael J. Fox Foundation, October 17, 2019
In this 1-hour webinar panelists discuss what research is finding about marijuana use for Parkinson’s disease and the role of other therapies such as acupuncture and meditation. Questions from listeners are answered.
By the Michael J. Fox Foundation, May 21, 2015
This 1-hour webinar is an interview of a person with PD, a neurologist, and an assistant research scientist. They share what is currently known about mind and body practices (yoga, meditation, stress management), manipulative therapies (massage, chiropractic, acupuncture), alternative medical systems (homeopathy, Ayurveda, Chinese medicine), and energy therapies (Reiki, Qi Gong) and what evidence there is that they are efficacious for people with Parkinson’s. [Registration required, but is free.]
Complementary & Alternative Management of Parkinson’s Disease: An Evidence-Based Review of Eastern Influenced Practices
By Danny Bega and Cindy Zadikoff. Journal of Movement Disorders, October 30, 2014
This is a literature review on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) treatments for PD, focusing on mind-body interventions and natural products.
By Hee Jin Kim, et. al. Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, October 19, 2016
A good, succinct summary of the evidence (or lack thereof) for various Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) treatments for PD including Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, etc., with a good discussion of the ethical and safety considerations physicians should keep in mind when discussing CAM with patients and their families.
Last updated August 2020 by Stanford Parkinsons Community Outreach.