Do you like the title of this article? I do. Are
you surprised that drumming helps to relieve
the symptoms of Parkinson’s?
I am not. I must make a confession before
I tell you more. I have been a drummer
since I was in elementary school. Much of
my time in high school was spent playing in
bands and orchestras. I still love to drum on
anything – chairs, tables, walls and of course
drums of all sizes and shapes.
Some people say drumming relieves the
symptoms of Parkinsons so I drum at every
Jump Start to Wellness event. The purpose
of drumming is to have fun and feel better.
Drumming fulfills both aspirations effortlessly.
Everyone becomes young again.
The drum is a powerful force in healing.
- Releases stress
- Energizes the spirit
- Heals troubling emotions
- Releases anger
- Creates euphoria
It is hard to beat this list, eh? The body’s
ability to heal is boundless. Drumming is
a fundamental way to support this ability.
Dr. Connie Tomaino has found that listening
to drumming gives people with Parkinson’s
better control over their movements and
helps to improve their gait in stressful
situations. Dr. Tomaino, DA, MT-BC, uses
drumming in her work with persons with
Parkinson’s. Here is her report:
“I once worked with a young person
with Parkinson’s disease who had
trouble initiating movement. I
explored different rhythm patterns
with him. We then made a cassette
of different kinds of African drumming
that he seemed to find very stimulating
and helped him get moving.”
“Anytime he had to walk across a street,
whereas in the past he may freeze, he
would put on his headphones and listen
to African rhythms to get to the other
side without freezing in the middle of
rush hour traffic.”
What is Drumming?
You do not have to just listen to drumming.
You can drum yourself. Drumming is stress
free and fun by design.
No musical ability is necessary. No talent
is required. No sense of rhythm is necessary.
No musical training is a prerequisite.
The only requirement is to have a body.
Everyone meets this requirement. Right?
The only agenda is to have fun. Everyone
is qualified to participate.
Any type of drum will do. Bongos, bass
drums, snare drums without the snare,
tympani, hand drums, African drums –
you name it. If it sounds like a drum it
is a drum no matter what it looks like or
how it is made.
You can drum alone or in groups. If you
drum with others, someone in the group can
volunteer to maintain a steady beat – often
like the beat of a human heart. Everyone
else in the group then beats away on their
drum to their hearts content with whatever
beat calls to them.
Some people make simple beats that are
meditative. Others are show offs. It is not
the beat per se that matters. Whatever way
you drum is the right way for you. The room
Let no one convince you otherwise. You
may be one who does not like to “keep the
beat.” Good for you. Go for it.
When we are in groups it is fun to sit around
in a circle and drum together. Even if you are
not drumming yourself, it is healing to feel the
thump of the airwaves. The thumbs crawl
under your skin and sit on the lap of your soul.
What you get in return for having fun
by just sitting in the group is euphoria.
What other remedy for Parkinson’s can
beat that? You also receive the welcome
benefit of dopamine. Who could use a
little more dopamine today?
Why Drumming Helps Parkinson’s
There is a marked tendency for persons
with Parkinson’s to be hyper-vigilant.
Mental activity is usually turned up to the
Hyper-vigilance is a good trait. It is one
reason why people with Parkinson’s
succeed in whatever they choose to do.
But hyper-vigilance also takes a heavy
toll on the human body which has a
foundational need for rest and relaxation.
The body was not designed to pump out
adrenaline 24-7 without registering loud
complaints. You know the story. People
who are always working and never playing
have health problems.
People who are hyper-vigilant also
have a much greater chance of having
no alfa brainwaves. Zero. Drumming
helps to jump start this deficiency by
inducing alfa brainwaves at 8-12 cycles
The alfa state is that delicious, relaxed
place that ever so gently nudges the
body into a state of pure relaxation, the
place where dopamine is manufactured.
The hyper-vigilant person has difficulty
producing dopamine because they
rarely experience this state.
I suspect that what happens in
transcendental meditation is similar
to what happens with drumming.
Twenty minutes (or so) of a 30
minute transcendental meditation
are spent floating in the alfa state.
Stress and trauma are embodied by a
disconnection from the earth. One good
way to survive stressful circumstances and
trauma (especially when we are young) is to
disassociate from ourselves and from our
surroundings. We yank our roots up from
the earth and let them flop about in thin air.
Drumming helps to connect you back to
the earth. Drumming calls you back to
the embrace of mother earth where it is
safe and exciting to be alive. Drumming
helps you accept everything and everyone –
including ourselves – just as you are.
Drumming invites the body to relax and
unwind. Results happen when you start.
You do not have to wait weeks or
months for the “therapy” to take effect.
Pretty neat, eh?
Testimonials tell us that drumming
helps people with Parkinson’s. We have
no formal research to indicate that it
helps but I say why even bother.
Why not give it a try and find a drum
today? You can often find great drums
at garage sales for a few dollars.
It certainly cannot hurt you.
It is bound to be fun.
You may laugh while doing it.
When you have fun and laugh …
you give yourself the best dose of
dopamine that exists. It is all natural
and entirely free.
So be honest with me here. Do you think
this is a silly idea? If you do, please take
this opportunity to laugh at me. That will
do you some good for sure!
As for myself, I am on the lookout for
drums to use at Jump Start to Wellness.
Euphoria is calling me.
Robert Rodgers, Ph.D.
© 2008 Parkinsons Recovery