520 North Third Ave Sandpoint, ID 83864

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Putting Parkinson's Symptoms on the Ropes

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By Kathy Hubbard


“The doctor tells you that you have Parkinson’s and it’s degenerative which means it’ll get worse every day and it’s incurable. Now if you put that together you realize that as crummy as you feel today it’s the best you’re ever going to feel. Tomorrow you’re going to feel worse. The next day you’ll feel worse. It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning when that’s the equation that governs you.”

The above quote is from Scott C. Newman who at 40 was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease. You can see a YouTube video of his HBO interview with Melissa Stark at Bonner General Health’s website www.bonnergeneral.org/rsb. And, why would you want to do that?

Because Newman’s story isn’t about how this former Indianapolis district attorney got knocked out by the disease, but about how he’s making a comeback with a program called Rock Steady Boxing. And, the best news is that the program he founded is now available here at Performance Therapy Services (613 Ridley Village Road, Suite A).

Needless to say, Newman was depressed. He was losing motor skills. Then a friend of his suggested that he try a boxing workout.

“After six weeks of intensive boxing training, I was getting better,” he said. “I could sign my name again and I was able to type again.”

What is it about boxing that works? The fundamental components of a boxer’s workout include balance, stance, speed, footwork, hand-eye coordination and rhythm. These are often functions that those with Parkinson’s have the least ability to perform. Boxing exercises unlock those skills.

At PTS, physical therapist Tom Seastone thought boxing was an interesting way to address the issues that PWPs (people with Parkinson’s) experience. And, when he looked at the research he was ready to volunteer to go to Indianapolis for the training. You may have heard the interview with Seastone last Thursday on KSPT. If you didn’t, I’ll recap a bit for you.

Just for the record, participants, whom we’re now calling “fighters,” instead of patients don’t punch each other or the staff. The new gym provides the equipment that a boxer would train on, not the ring or the bell or the styptic pencil. Fighters are evaluated and put into the appropriate classes that are currently held on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Fridays will be added soon.

Also for the record, the Parkinson’s Support Group that meets on the second Monday of each month from 2 to 3 p.m. at the East Bonner County Library (1407 Cedar St.) were the ones who brought the idea of adding this program to BGH and held fundraisers to help defray the costs of the gym and Seastone’s training in Indiana.

“I came back from the trip feeling quite motivated. This is not just an exercise class, this is really something people can benefit from in a lot of different ways,” Seastone said. He also said that the most important aspect is that boxing is a forced intensity exercise.

“Someone else aside from you is setting the pace. You’re not deciding when to throw a punch. You’ve got somebody that’s calling out punches, that’s putting a pad in front of you, that’s tapping you on the elbows trying to get you to move, but you’re not self-pacing,” Seastone explained. “We’re not stopping the disease process but it seems to slow down the degeneration.”

The early signs of Parkinson’s are a slight shaking or tremor in your finger, thumb, hand or chin; a change in your handwriting; inability to smell; trouble sleeping; feeling stiff in your body, arms or legs; trouble moving your bowels without straining; your voice is soft or hoarse; people say you look serious, depressed or angry; dizziness or fainting, and/or you’re stooping, not standing up straight.

Seastone says the best part of Rock Steady Boxing is that it’s fun. He said it’s cathartic to throw a punch. He also said that classes are structured to work to the abilities of the fighter and that some of the exercises can actually be done sitting down.

Talk to your primary care provider about giving you a referral then call 208-255-3676 to schedule an appointment. You can also access the appointment request form on the website.


Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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