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Walking to the Sound of Music Lowers Number of Falls for Parkinson’s Patients

Parkinsonian Gait

Falls in Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is characterized by a peculiar kind of shuffling walk called the Parkinsonian Gait. Also, those afflicted with Parkinson’s disease can experience rigidity in muscles. A person suffering from Parkinson’s can suddenly without any warning go rigid and fall right over without being able to protect themselves with their hands. It is especially dangerous for those suffering with Parkinson’s disease to walk downstairs alone. Both of these conditions lead to a large number of falls in Parkinson’s patients.

Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation (RAS)

A method for gait training using music and rhythm called rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS) is in existence. However, there had never been a scientific study proving that RAS actually helps prevent falls in Parkinson’s patients. A new study published July 23, 2018, in Clinical Rehabilitation by researchers from the University of Toronto and the University of Colorado shows that RAS can reduce the number of falls in Parkinson’s patients.

The Study

Participants in the study were 60 seniors aged 62-82 years old who had been diagnosed with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease and who had fallen at least two times over the past year. They were divided into two groups and assigned training at home for 30 minutes every day for gait training with metronome click–embedded music gait that was either folk or classical music. The main group continued non-stop RAS training for 24 weeks, whereas the control group stopped RAS training from the 8th to the 16th week. Clinical assessments were made on both groups at weeks 8, 16 and 24. Both groups showed significant improvement at the 8th week, but at the 16th week after the control group had stopped the training there had been an increase among them for falls. However, after the control group resumed RAS training, by the 24th week there was no difference in the rate of falls between the two groups. All of them showed improvement in ankle flexion. RAS training therapy considerably lowered the number of falls in Parkinson’s patients and helped increase their walking speed and stride length.

Parkinson’s Disease (PD)

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease. About a million Americans are afflicted with Parkinson’s disease and about 10 million suffer from it world-wide. Most cases appear after the age of 60, but about 4% are early onset before the age of 50. While it affects both sexes, men are affected more than women. Parkinson’s usually comes on gradually, but there is no cure. Medicinal drugs and sometimes surgery or deep brain stimulation are used to treat the symptoms and to replace dopamine in the brain.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

  • Tremor (trembling, shaking) of hands, arms, legs, jaw or head
  • Stiffness of the limbs and body
  • Slowness of movement
  • Balance and coordination difficulties that can lead to falls
  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing and speaking
  • Urinary and bowel problems like constipation
  • Sleep disorders
  • Skin problems
  • Loss or partial loss of ability to smell
  • Some suffer from depression
  • Some Parkinson’s patients also develop a type of dementia
  • Some Parkinson’s patients have Lewy bodies in their brains

Therapies for Parkinson’s Patients

Parkinson’s patients need many different kinds of therapies  such as speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy. Music therapy can also be beneficial as shown in the Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation (RAS) study.

Move to Assisted Living or Long-Term Care

At some point there may come a time when a move to assisted living or a skilled nursing and rehab may be necessary.

Ditmas Park Rehab and Care Center, Brooklyn, New York

Ditmas Park Rehab and Care in Brooklyn, New York offers all the kinds of therapies that a person with Parkinson’s would need including music therapy.

Brooklyn Hospitals Near Ditmas Park Rehab and Care Center:

New York Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital

NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn (formerly named NYU Lutheran Medical Center)

SUNY Downstate Medical Center – University Hospital of Brooklyn

NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County

Maimonides Medical Center


As seen from the RAS study, Parkinson’s patients can improve with the right kinds of therapies and treatments. In this case the RAS training led to fewer falls in Parkinson’s seniors proving that this therapy works to the benefit of Parkinson’s patients.


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