Trager® therapy reduced the level of evoked stretch responses in Parkinson’s disease patients, indicating a reduction in rigidity, according to a research study.

“The Effect of Trager Therapy on the Level of Evoked Stretch Responses in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease and Rigidity” was conducted by staff at the Montreal Neurological Institute and McGill Centre for Studies on Aging, at McGill University; Concordia University Department of Exercise Science; and the University of Quebec Department of Kinanthropology.

Twenty-six patients with a mean age of 58.5 years and a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease were assigned to receive either 20 minutes of Trager therapy on the more rigid side of their body (ipsi group), or on the opposite side (contra group).

Half the patients in each group received the treatment in a supine position on a massage table; the other half received the treatment while sitting in a chair.

Trager work, according to the U.S. Trager Association, consists of the support and movement of the client’s body within a pain-free range, so that he or she may experience the feeling of moving effortlessly, release tension and allow new movement patterns to emerge.

This study, which focused on upper-limb rigidity of the participants, involved gentle manipulation of the shoulder, trunk, leg, arm and hand. Depending on which group the subject was in, either the more-rigid or less-rigid arm was supported by the therapist and put into a gentle rocking motion while the subject lay passively supine on the massage table or sat passively in a chair.

Before each Trager session, and at one and 11 minutes after each session, rhythmic, passive flexion and extension of the participant’s wrist was imposed, and electromyographic (EMG) activity was recorded. Researchers measured the level of evoked stretch responses (ESR), which show up as bursts in the EMG readings and correlate to rigidity levels.

Each evaluation consisted of three consecutive, 12-second trials, during which the EMG activity of the extensor digitorum communis and flexor carpi radialis was recorded.

Results of the study showed that rigidity was significantly reduced at both one and 11 minutes after the Trager session, and that only the position of the patients (sitting or supine) affected the results, not the side treated (ipsi or contra).

“Results seem to indicate that the contra-sitting position is much less significant than other conditions,” the report stated.

“In conclusion, results from the present study strongly suggest that it is possible to modify the level of ESR by using Trager therapy. The present results may eventually lead to the development of a specific complementary therapy for patients with [Parkinson’s disease] and rigidity.”

Source: Montreal Neurological Institute and McGill Centre for Studies on Aging, McGill University; Concordia University Department of Exercise Science; University of Quebec Department of Kinanthropology. Authors: Christian Duval, Denis Lafontaine, Jacques Herbert, Alain Leroux, Ph.D., Michel Panisset, M.D., and Jean P. Boucher, Ph.D. Originally published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Sept. 2002, Vol. 25, No. 7, pp. 455-464.

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