“If a treatment sounds too good to be true, it probably is” (Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine, UK)
Conventional treatments for Parkinson’s include specialist medical care, medication, allied health therapies and, in some cases, surgery. These treatments have made tremendous advances in managing Parkinson’s symptoms, making them the foundation of your healthcare. Yet health and wellbeing is multidimensional and these treatments also have limits. While conventional treatments generally focus on symptoms, a range of other practices and therapies focus on overall well-being or different components of it. Examples include regular exercise, complementary therapies and nutrition supplements.
These treatments are intended to be used alongside conventional medicine – as indicated by the term ‘complementary’. With complementary therapies in particular it is important to note that, while many people find them useful, they are not scientifically based – so be sure to research them properly first!
A range of other treatments exist called alternative therapies. Unlike complementary therapies, these treatments tend to market themselves as “cures” that can replace conventional approaches. Be aware that these treatments are often profit driven and claims of cures are NOT supported by scientific evidence.
Since complementary and alternative therapies are not scientifically developed, they are not regulated as carefully as conventional medicine. For this reason, you need to be cautious and informed when considering these approaches. In other words, you need to do your own detective work!
To assist you in your research, this fact sheet guides you to resources and advice on making best use of other therapies to promote your wellbeing. Specifically, the following questions are answered:
What are the benefits of regular exercise and active living?
Find out the benefits of regular exercise and active living in our wellbeing and active living section.
How can I make best use of complementary therapies?
Complementary therapies can be used in addition to conventional medicine to help enhance wellbeing. However, because they are not as carefully regulated , you are well advised to put them under the microscope before making a decision! It is your health and wellbeing at stake, so be sure to do your research carefully.
Important! Your first priority should always be to avoid harming yourself. Some therapies are not advisable for Parkinson’s and other health conditions, so make sure you ask your neurologist or doctor about the benefits or risks of the treatment.
Special Note! Always consult your doctor before taking herbs, vitamins and dietary supplements as these may interfere with some Parkinson’s medications.
Sound guidelines to follow when selecting a complementary therapy are listed in a booklet produced by the UK Parkinson’s Disease Society (PDS): Complementary Therapies and Parkinson’s Disease . This booklet also provides an A-Z catalogue of complementary therapies, including information on each about potential benefits, research and risks.
Further information on complementary therapies for Parkinson’s is available on the European Parkinson’s Disease Association’s (EPDA) – Rewrite Tomorrow website.
Important! If you are thinking about using a complementary therapist, ask them the following key questions:
- What are their qualifications?
- Are they registered with an appropriate professional body?
- What is their experience in treating people with Parkinson’s?
- Is there any evidence of treatment benefits for Parkinson’s patients?
- Is this evidence independently validated?
- What are the potential risks for your individual health conditions?
- How long before benefits will be seen?
- Be sure to ask for a proper treatment plan and cost estimates.
- Monitor your own progress to make sure you are getting value for money.
- Check whether you are eligible for private health insurance discounts and rebates on complementary therapy.
Examples of commonly used complementary therapies
Complementary therapies can be broken down into different categories:
- Structured Exercise
- Manipulative and Body-based
- Complementary Medicine
To find out more, read:
Types of Complementary Therapies (PDF File 39KB)
Where can I find a complementary therapist or Association?
Find a complementary therapy, association, school or practitioner in Natural Therapy Pages . This site is the central online catalogue for complementary therapy in Australia.
Australian Links on complementary therapy
What can nutrition supplements offer?
Parkinson’s research has been undertaken into the therapeutic benefits of a number of antioxidants. Find out more from the Parkinson Disease Society’s information sheets on Antioxidants and Coenzyme Q10.
Find more information on diet here.
Note: Before taking herbs or nutrition supplements, check with your doctor that these will not interfere with your Parkinson’s medication.
What are the risks of alternative therapies or “cures”?
Alternative therapies often promise cures that claim to replace the effects of conventional medicine. However, there are NOvalidated cures for Parkinson’s and these treatments are NOT supported by researched scientific evidence. Be very cautious of any alternative therapist or guru who promises a cure or asks you to abandon your conventional treatments. If you are considering trying an alternative therapy follow the guidelines above for complementary therapies.
- It is not safe to abandon your conventional treatment.
- Always check with your doctor about the risks of alternative therapies.
Read the following articles on the risks of alternative therapies or cures: