Parkinson’s disease is vibration a neurodegenerative disorder that affects millions of people worldwide, causing a wide range of motor and non-motor symptoms. Over the years, researchers have explored various therapeutic approaches to vibration alleviate the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those living with Parkinson’s. One such approach that has gained recent attention is vibration therapy , disease often referred to as “Parkinson’s gloves.”
The ‘buzz’ on the Parkinson’s street for 2023 has been about these new ‘gloves’ which, when worn, have been observed to improve many of the symptoms of vibration Parkinson’s disease. The recent story on the Today Show took the ‘Parkinson’s gloves’ viral, and I thought to start the year— together we could focus on exploring this new technology.
Historical Perspective: Vibrating Machines and Wellness
To understand the potential of vibration therapy for Parkinson’s, we should first look at its historical roots. Gustav Zander, a Swedish inventor, introduced ‘vibrating’ exercise machines as early as 1857, displaying them at two World’s Fairs. His inventions were as complex as modern-day gym equipment, and his ‘Horse Riding Simulator’ was known to apply therapeutic vibration.
Even the famous John Harvey Kellogg, known for his wellness prescriptions, used vibrating machines at his Battle Creek Michigan Sanitarium ~1876-1930. Kellogg’s techniques used vibration, drawing people from around the world to his ‘eccentric’ inventions.
However, it was Jean-Martin Charcot who brought vibration therapy into neurology and specifically for Parkinson’s disease. His vibratory chair aimed to provide comfort and better sleep for Parkinson’s patients.
The Research Landscape: What Does the Data Say?
Recent research has examined the efficacy of vibration therapy for Parkinson’s. Some studies have looked into ‘whole-body vibration’ and its impact on Parkinson’s symptoms. Dincher and colleagues, for instance, examined 244 papers and found that 17 of them contained experimental and control groups for Parkinson’s vibration therapy. Their conclusion was that ‘whole-body vibration’ lacked sufficient evidence for use in Parkinson’s. Thigpen and colleagues also reviewed this topic and concluded that there were mixed results when applying whole-body vibration for Parkinson’s symptoms.
Several companies have shown interest in developing vibration technologies for Parkinson’s disease. David Putrino’s work on a device developed by Not Impossible, for instance, indicated that short durations of vibrotactile stimulation delivered via wearable devices were safe and well-tolerated and may attenuate resting tremor severity in individuals with Parkinson’s.
Stanford’s Parkinson’s Gloves: A Novel Approach
One notable development in the field is the work of Peter Tass at Stanford University, who has developed gloves for Parkinson’s designed to be worn a few hours a day. The gloves provide vibro-tactile stimulation to the fingertips and hands. While promising, it’s important to note that there hasn’t been a well-powered peer-reviewed publication with control subjects on the use of these gloves, making it difficult to assess their effectiveness.
The Hype Cycle: Where Do Parkinson’s Gloves Stand?
In the world of technology, the ‘hype cycle’ is often used to classify new technologies. Where do the Parkinson’s gloves fit in this cycle? They might currently be at the ‘peak of inflated expectations.’ There may be symptomatic benefits from the application of the Tass gloves, but we’ll need further research to clarify the acute versus chronic benefits. A ‘trough of disillusionment’ may follow as we learn more, followed by a ‘slope of enlightenment’ when we have a better understanding of the technology and its realistic applications.
Key Questions to Answer: Unraveling the Parkinson’s Glove Mystery
Several critical questions need to be answered as we continue to explore vibration therapy for Parkinson’s:
- Does the effect persist both acutely (days) vs. chronically (months)?
- Which symptoms improve in what Parkinson’s group (subtype) of patients? Patient selection will be a key consideration for success or failure.
- Are there placebo or nocebo effects?
- How does the technology change or affect ‘brain networks’ involved in Parkinson’s? Will it be a similar story to the effects of deep brain stimulation and changes in brain beta oscillations?
- Does the effect hold up in an adequately sized sample of patients vs. controls?
vibration therapy for Parkinson’s is a fascinating area of research, but it’s crucial to base our understanding on rigorous scientific evidence. As we explore the potential of Parkinson’s gloves and similar technologies, we must approach them with cautious optimism. More research and data are needed to determine if they are indeed a source of hope for those living with Parkinson’s. We look forward to the ‘slope of enlightenment’ and a better understanding of how these innovations can benefit individuals with this challenging condition.