There are some neurological disorders that produce symptoms that slow or restrict body motion and movement. Neuromodulation can be used to reduce or eliminate the symptoms that interfere with peoples’ daily lives, including spasms, tremors, or stiffness in the body, hands, feet, trunk, or even voice, allowing people to improve their quality of life.
Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative condition of the nervous system affecting nearly one million Americans as well as their families, friends, and loved ones.
You are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease as you get older. The disease affects your center of gravity and causes soreness, stiffness (rigidity), tremors, and problems with balance or postural stability. It develops gradually. You usually experience symptoms in one extremity at first, but then it spreads throughout your body. In more advanced cases, Parkinson’s disease affects your walk, memory, and speech, and causes you to move slowly (bradykinesia) and have difficulty swallowing. Often, you become immobile and dependent on your caregivers.
Our experts understand the complicated nature of Parkinson’s disease. We work with The Robert and John M. Bendheim Parkinson and Movement Disorder Center, and their neuropsychologists, speech therapists, and physical therapists to recommend the best, most integrated treatment options.
We do not know the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease. We do know, however, that the symptoms stem from tissue degeneration within the substantia nigra and other brainstem structures. These parts of your brain use dopamine and related chemicals to communicate with other regions of the brain. Dopamine coordinates movement; when your dopamine levels fall, you become slow and rigid. Other risk factors of Parkinson’s disease include:
- Advanced age can lead to tissue degeneration. At 80 years old, you have a two percent chance of developing Parkinson’s disease.
- Environmental influences, such as pesticides, can increase your risk.
- Genetic susceptibility is a concern, especially if you have a first degree relative with the disease.
Dystonia produces sustained, involuntary muscle contractions that can cause repetitive movements and abnormal postures. Primary dystonia has genetic components and often runs in families. Secondary dystonia, also called acquired dystonia, can result from a traumatic brain injury such a car accident, stroke, or cerebral palsy.
In general, dystonia produces varying degrees of mild to painful spasms, but often the symptoms depend on the part of the body affected. Dystonia is classified according to the body distribution that is affected:
- Focal affects a single body region.
- Segmental affects two or more adjacent body regions.
- Multifocal affects two or more non-adjacent body regions.
- Generalized affects the legs, or legs, trunk and one other region.
- Hemidystonia affects the arm and leg on the same side of the body.
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is most commonly performed in cases of generalized, hemidystonia, or multifocal dystonia. Some focal dystonias, such as cervical dystonia (affecting the muscles in the neck, causing your head to contort, or be pulled forward or backward) can be treated with DBS. Tardive dystonia (dyskineasia) consists of uncontrollable muscle spasms caused by exposure to dopamine-blocking medications, such as antipsychotics, certain antidepressants, antiemetics, or other medications.
Essential tremor (ET) is a debilitating neurological condition that causes shaking in the hands, voice, and head, making it difficult to complete everyday actions such as holding coffee, grooming, and eating.
People often mistake this condition for Parkinson's disease. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, more than 10 million Americans have ET, eight times as many as suffer from Parkinson's disease. ET tends to affect relatively healthy people, both young and old. ET can affect various extremities of the body, although 95 percent of cases involve the hands. It can cause occasional, temporary, or intermittent symptoms such as rhythmic shaking, difficulty controlling movements and walking, and a poor sense of balance. Often, certain actions (including standing and resting) can trigger the symptoms. We do not know what causes ET, but we do know that there is a genetic component, especially among children with the disorder. According to the International Essential Tremor Foundation children who have a parent with ET have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the gene, LINGO1, associated with the condition.
We work closely with neurologists at The Robert and John M. Bendheim Parkinson Center and The Bonnie and Tom Strauss Center for Movement Disorders, to create individualized treatment plans, which may include traditional therapies or advanced neurosurgical procedures. We offer an information day for ET patients every three months when we present the latest findings and research trials. You can also meet others who have the same condition.