Did your Parkinson’s Symptoms start on the Same Side as Your Dominant Hand?

I have been intrigued for several years about what seems to be a correlation between Hand Dominance and Parkinson’s onset on the same side.  I noticed this in a Dance for PD class several years ago.  Most of the people seemed to have a right hand tremor.  I did not ask anyone if that was their dominant hand.  Just tucked it away in my brain for future reference.Image result for michelangelo hands painting

When I met a newly diagnosed Parkie last week, the topic came up.  She is left-handed and yes, her symptoms started on the left side.  So I went home and checked out the research.

There have not been a lot of studies, and the few recent ones seem to indicate that there may be a correlation.  According to a study by Sara M. Scharoun et al, University of Waterloo, from 2015:  ” One question of interest here is whether the motor symptoms of PD which give rise to PD initially in the preferred hand are the same as those seen when first expressed in the nonpreferred hand.”

Another study from 2011 by Barrett MJ, Harrison MB and Wooten GF showed a “significant association between handedness and the side of the initial symptom; that is, the dominant side was affected first in the majority of both left- and right-handed patients. Compared with patients with non-dominant side onset, more patients with dominant-side onset presented with bradykinesia, while fewer patients presented with gait difficulty. Patients with dominant-side onset were diagnosed and began dopaminergic medication after a longer symptom duration than patients with non-dominant-side onset.”

I tested out my theory at boxing class today.  Eight out of nine were certain the symptoms began on their dominant side (8 righties and one lefty); the ninth wasn’t sure.  That, of course, is a ridiculously small sample size, so, to expand my own (very) non-scientific follow-up on this, please complete the following survey.  I will provide an update in a couple of weeks once I get a significant number of responses.

A number of you have asked about the Path Finder Laser Shoes from last week’s post. Dan is doing very well with the Path Finder.  I am hoping that Vince will have a chance to try them before next week.  Stay tuned …….

Technology to relieve Gait Freezing

I was contacted last month by Walk With Path, a company that makes devices that attach to your shoes to alleviate Freezing of Gait (FoG).  The device, Path Finder, provides visual cues with lasers attached to the front of your shoes. This gives the wearer a visual cue to step across, and acts as an external stimulus to trigger walking.  Path Finder is available in the UK and in Europe, but not yet in the US.

A study  conducted by Professor Bas Bloem and Dr. Murielle Ferraye at Radboud University in The Netherlands has been published, validating the concept of Path Finder for alleviating Freezing of Gait in Parkinson’s.  In the article, using a visual cue projected from footwear, demonstrated a significant reduction in ‘freezing episodes’ and the time spent ‘frozen’.

I was asked to try Path Finder, but since I do not have a problem with freezing, I asked if two of the men in my boxing class who do have FoG could give it a try.  Walk With Path sent a prototype for them to use for a few weeks.  So far, Dan has tried using Path Finder with very good results.   He wrote:

“As for my own experience: the units are potentially transformative.   For example, I had to go to the bank a few days ago, and had to stand in line with a bunch of people in a small space.  Ordinarily, this situation would put me into a full-on freeze.  But because I had the units on, I was able to navigate it without incident!  Also, when my meds have completely worn off, I can use them to go a short distance (say, 50 feet) and it will take one minute instead of ten.
Limits: they’re not useful outdoors during the day because you can’t see the lasers.”  
Here are two videos of Dan in Boxing Class.  The first shows him freezing.  In the second, he walks easily, with the lasers to guide him.  The results were remarkable, as you can see.  In the first, the lasers were turned off.  You can see Dan is having a difficult time walking, and his arms swing wildly.


In the second, he turned on the lasers and his walk is more natural, and his arm swings have calmed down as well.

 This is a prototype for testing Path Finder in the US.  It is not available for purchase yet.

Dan will continue to work with Path Finder for another week before turning it over to Vince to try.  More to come in a few weeks.

Tripping into the new year

Did you just fall? No, I was checking if gravity still works.   Anonymous

Somehow, when things seem to be going well, something happens to bring you back to reality.  I fell twice this past week, after having gone months without a fall.  Once when I stepped on the edge of the sidewalk and my foot gave way, and the second time in someone’s home, when I was too busy talking to someone to see a one inch step in front of me.  Both times, I fell hard, with no chance of recovering my balance.  The second time, I actually injured my self.   I landed on one knee and the opposite hand, which was holding my cell phone ( I think).  The cell phone apparently dug into my hand, resulting in immediately swelling and pain.  Fortunately, x-rays showed no broken bones, so I am left with a sore hand and wounded pride, both of which should subside quickly.

But these incidents serve as a reminder that when living with Parkinson’s, we must always pay attention to our surroundings, more than usual.  You never know what dangers are lurking ahead to take you down.  A person without PD and good balance, will usually manage to stay upright when tripping on an uneven sidewalk.  They will start to fall, but catch themselves.  But with PD, it is a different story.  My wonderful husband, Mr. Twitchy, said that I fell like a tree off that sidewalk.  I never had a chance against gravity, as I would have before PD.

Image result for trippingWhat can a Parkie to do to minimize the chance of falling?  Walking poles can help, but only if you remember to use them. I really make an effort when walking up and down steps to use the handrail, and that has helped a lot.  Uneven steps have been a challenge for a long time.  Unfortunately there isn’t always a handrail when you are out on a sidewalk.  You need to look down at the sidewalk and look ahead at the same time so you don’t walk into anything in your way.  Sounds easy, right?  Not always, especially on a crowded sidewalk.

And then there is the cellphone, which is a major distraction and probably dangerous to use while walking (as much as when driving), but we all do it anyway.   Mr. Twitchy keeps telling me to put it away while walking.  He is concerned that I am really going to hurt myself one of these days.  He is probably right, but don’t tell him I said that.

Image result for quotes about tripping and fallingFinally, I can’t help wondering if the recent falls are signs of changes in my Parkinson’s symptoms.  And that scares me more than anything else.   Mr. Twitchy keeps reassuring me that I am ok, that I just need to pay attention to my surroundings more.   And I really hope he is right about that.


On a totally different subject, please check out Soaring with Hope for PD – Parkinson’s on Facebook.  This is a project created by 3 friends of mine who are all living with PD.  Their goal is to reach out to the Parkinson’s Community worldwide and bring at least 10,000 origami paper Cranes, each bearing a message of hope, to the WPC in Kyoto, 2019, to be displayed in a beautiful art installation.




Time Out

When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing – just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park?     

Ralph Marston

There is something to be said for taking time out and going somewhere where you have no responsibility and it is ok to do nothing for a week. For Mr. Twitchy and me, that means going to Hawaii, preferably Maui, for a week in the winter. No kids, no place we have to be, no obligations. Just us and maybe, if the timing is right, the whales.

Neither Mr. T nor I are good at just sitting. We like active vacations, with every day planned to the max. But we discovered one year by accident, we can sit on the beach for hours at a time, just watching for the whales, never feeling the need to do anything else.

It’s like meditating, but instead of looking inward for your zen, you are lulled by the ocean waves and the occasional whale spout. What more could a person want?  Well, maybe a massage and sunset yoga on the beach. Truly a great place for a Parkie to recharge.  And feel better, too.

So here we are, just 24 hours after arriving, the most relaxed either of us has been in a long time.  The pace in Hawaii is much slower and it doesn’t take long before you slow down, too and feel the spirit of Aloha.   I highly recommend it.  Now if we could just find some whales, everything will be perfect.

Sunset at Wailea, Maui 1/9/2018


Time out also means keeping this short.  Back with a regular post next week.

Aloha:     Aloha is a value, one of unconditional love.
Aloha is the outpouring and receiving of the spirit.

Some suggestions for a Parkie New Year

New Year’s Resolution:  Be More Awesome than last year.

Have you made your new years resolutions?  Are there things that you want to banish from your life?  New things that you want to embrace?  Something you have always dreamed of doing, but never thought was attainable.  Should you wipe the slate clean and start over in the new year?

At yoga this morning, my yoga instructor had an interesting view about making resolutions for the new year.  Look at something that has been a problem in the last year.  Don’t banish it.  View it as a small person to embrace.  I had always looked at Parkinson’s as the Elephant in the Room, to be banished in whatever way possible.  He says to look at it as a small person instead and embrace it.  By looking at PD through this lens, look at the positives things about it and how you can overcome the negative – I know that is difficult – and see how you can manage your PD better.


With that in mind, knowing that  Parkinson’s can always throw a wrench in the best made plans, here are some of my suggestions for 2018.

  1.  Keep on exercising as much as possible,  a minimum of 5 days a week, including more strenuous exercise at least 3 of those days,  As a friend from my boxing class said, because of all of this exercise, he is in the best shape, physically, that he has ever been.  I agree.  I am definitely stronger than I was before my diagnosis, even though I had been exercising for years.  Focusing on what exercise I need to do to keep moving, I am also in the best shape I have ever been.
  2. Try to learn something new.  Yes, that small person may have been the reason that you had to stop doing something you enjoyed, so take that time and learn to play an  instrument, learn a new language, take that class you never had time for before.  I started taking piano lessons 4 years ago after a 50 year hiatus.  It helped my hands become less stiff, and I have been having a great time.  And don’t forget that  we have been told many  times that learning something new helps to reconnect some of the neurons in the brain, otherwise known as Neuroplasticity.
  3.  Do not identify yourself as “sick“.  There has been a debate over the last few weeks whether Parkie’s are “sick“.*  Many prefer to call it a chronic condition.  You can  give in to it and be a victim of PD, with all of the negative connotations that come with the word “disease“.  Or you can choose to fight back and not let Parkinson’s win.  In other words, embrace the “small person” in order to live a productive life.
  4. Make a few resolutions that are within reach.  Getting out of the house more often,  visiting friends, eating better, etc.  You know what you can achieve.
  5. Resolve to be better informed about the latest developments in Parkinson’s research.  There is a lot of good stuff happening and it is hard to keep on top of it.  Subscribe to a few PD newsletters that you like.  Too many and you will be overwhelmed.  All of this research can impact you sometime in the future, so the more you stay of top of it, the more prepared you will be when you see your doctor.
  6. Take that new information and write down a few questions for your doctor before every visit.  Bring your care partner with you if possible so that they can become part of the conversation.   Ask about new treatments that may be appropriate for you.  And be honest about how your current treatment is working.  If you are not seeing the results you had hoped for, your doctor needs to know in order to make changes in your meds, therapy, etc.
  7. Finally, add a few resolutions that are a reach. You may not get there, or maybe, just maybe, you will surprise yourself and find yourself doing something that you always dreamed of but never thought would be possible because of Parkinson’s.

Image result for new years resolution


*read “Are People with Parkinson’s Sick” in Parkinson’s Life