Singing Through Parkinson’s Disease

A group of Parkinson’s patients singing in a research study for Iowa State University.

Patients with advanced Parkinson’s are singing their way to better mental health, says Elizabeth Stegemöller, assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University. (Click here to see a video of Stegemöller leading her singing group in 2017.)

Stegemöller saw patients’ moods improve and their stress decrease, and their motor symptoms fell as well.

“Some of the symptoms that are improving, such as finger tapping and the gait, don’t always readily respond to medication, but with singing they’re improving,” Stegemöller said in ScienceDaily.com.

The data is still new, but Stegemöller says the singing patients showed improvements that were similar to taking medication. Singing is also beneficial in helping Parkinson’s patient improve their respiratory and swallow control.

Stegemöller and her team measured heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels for the singing participants, who also reported any feelings of happiness, sadness, anger and anxiety. The same data was recorded after the one-hour singing session ended.

This is one of the first studies to look at how singing affects heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol in people with Parkinson’s disease, according to ScienceDaily. While reported levels of happiness and anger stayed about the same, patients reported they were feeling less anxious and sad.

Researchers are taking it one step further: analyzing blood samples to measure oxytocin levels, indicators of inflammation and neuroplasticity to see if these factors are also affected by singing.

Isn’t it incredible how our minds can affect our physical health? Chronic health conditions can take such a toll on your emotional health. If you feel like you’re under a cloud, call me. We can sing our way through this together.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

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