As this New Year unfolds, you’ll begin to see more people flood into gyms. They may be rehabbing from an injury, trying to drop some pesky pounds, or simply trying to get healthier, but the end goal is the same: making a change. In order to do this, mental preparation is required and the brain often leads the body. But did you know that this works the other way, too? It’s possible to lead with the body and have the brain follow suit to improve your health!
What Is Dystonia?
The other day I was watching a news clip of a man suffering from a neurological condition called “dystonia.” Dystonia is thought to be the third most common neurological movement disorder behind essential tremors and Parkinson’s disease. It causes mild to severe muscle spasms, interfering with daily living and tasks involving movement. It can be debilitating to those living with it, in some cases leading to fatigue, pain, depression, difficulty swallowing or speaking (if the throat is affected), or functional blindness (if the eyelids are affected).
New Treatment for Dystonia?
It’s traditionally treated with muscle relaxants and rest, but doctors in Toronto, Canada have been looking at treating dystonia naturally, using a controversial concept called “neuroplasticity”—and they’re getting some very promising results. Neuroplasticity advocates believe that by performing repetitive motions, people suffering from various mental and physical conditions can change their brains. The man I saw in the video was successfully treating his dystonia by dancing. There is also evidence of people treating the condition by picking up items repeatedly to regain motor function in their hands.
Using the Body to Train the Brain
What makes this form of treatment so unique is that it uses the body to train the brain. By finding a technique that works with their clients, doctors are finding activities like dancing can help people retrain their muscles by performing natural movements unconsciously.
For example, in the news clip, the man suffering from dystonia had little control over the muscles in his neck. Regardless of how hard he fought it, his neck would pull his head down towards his right shoulder. But after physical training (i.e. dancing) and continuous neuroplasticity treatment, the man has seen remarkable progress in the management of his dystonia.
Neuroplasticity for Dystonia
If you’ve got dystonia, or have begun to notice you’re losing control over various muscles, neuroplasticity is something I’d recommend looking into. I’ve been learning more about it in recent months through a friend of mine who works closely with individuals undergoing neuroplasticity treatment, and it’s very helpful for some people. Aside from it being a natural treatment, its focus is not on covering up the problem, but rather getting at the source.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Leung, W., “Using the Brain to Retrain the body to overcome dystonia,” Globe and Mail web site, March 7, 2015; http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/using-the-brain-to-retrain-the-body-to-overcome-dystonia/article23342529/.
Sung, H., “Choosing Madonna over Meds, One Man’s Quest to Walk,” Globe and Mail web site, March 6, 2015; http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/life-video/video-choosing-madonna-over-meds-one-mans-quest-to-walk/article23338135/.