Every time the month of April comes around I can’t help but be reminded of the common phrase, “April showers bring May flowers”.  But even as the weather takes a turn towards warmth and gentle cool breezes, April should be known for a lot more than just the showers.  The team here at MedRhythms would like to highlight this month to raise awareness for Parkinson’s disease because the month of April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness month.

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic condition of the nervous system associated with degeneration of the basal ganglia in the brain.  It is classified as a movement disorder that is progressive, worsening over time.  Primary motor signs of Parkinson’s disease include tremors of the hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face, slowness of movement (bradykinesia), stiffness of the limbs and trunk (rigidity), and impaired balance and coordination (postural instability).  The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary from person to person.  The cause of this disease is unknown.  Although there are treatment options, like medication and surgery to manage symptoms, there is currently no cure for this disease.

The American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA) and the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) have some staggering statistics and facts that bring advocacy and awareness to this condition:

  • An American is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every 9 minutes.  That is 6 new cases per hour, 164 cases per day, 5,000 cases per month.
  • 60,000 are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year.
  • Parkinson’s affects 1 million people in the US alone.  This is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
  • An estimated 7-10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s.
  • Motor symptoms include decreased dexterity, tremors, decreased facial expressions, rigidity, and slow movement.
  • Non-motor symptoms include depression, anxiety, constipation, and sleep disturbances.
  • The combined direct and indirect cost of Parkinson’s is estimated to be nearly $25 billion per year in the US alone.  Medication costs for an individual person with Parkinson’s averages at about $2,500 per year.

The affect of music on the brain has been heavily researched within the past decade.  From this research, standardized clinical interventions were created that address rehabilitation for brain function and specifically with Parkinson’s Disease.  These NMT interventions use music by retraining the brain’s injured pathways to rehabilitate non-musical functions including movement.  There are multiple NMT interventions that address goals for individuals with Parkinson’s depending on their symptoms and the progression of symptoms.  These include Vocal Intonation Therapy (VIT), Therapeutic Singing (TS), Rhythmic Speech Cueing (RSC), Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation (RAS), Patterned Sensory Enhancement (PSE), Oral Motor and Respiratory Exercises (OMREX), Musical Mnemonic Training (MMT), Musical Attention Control Training (MACT), and Music in Psychosocial Training and Counseling (MPC).  RAS is most common in gait training for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.  This connection between rhythm and the brain helps to rehabilitate those diagnosed with this condition by learning how to walk more smoothly and effectively.  Individuals entrain to a rhythmic stimulus and can synchronize their movements to this stimulus, helping to replace their impaired internal timing function.  Research has shown dramatic improvements in Parkinsonian symptoms through NMT interventions.

For the month of April, awareness must first happen to help bring advocacy for this condition that affects so many people.  The team at MedRhythms strives to be a powerful voice by providing clinical care for this population with NMT, so that all can have access to these services.  Take some time this April to spread your knowledge and help raise awareness for Parkinson’s disease and the many individuals that live with this condition every day.

By: Steph Mathioudakis, MedRhythms Blogger


Thaut, M.H., & Hoemberg, V. (2014). Handbook of neurologic music therapy. Oxford, UK: Oxford Press.