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Parkinson’s disease symptoms reversed with ‘one lifestyle change’

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Parkinson’s disease symptoms reversed with ‘one lifestyle change’

Scott Hanley

Scott Hanley (Image: CrossFit Belfast)

A man claims he has “reversed” all the symptoms of degenerative condition with one lifestyle change.

Scott Hanley says he was lead to first getting his diagnosis when he was out enjoying a walk. His foot suddenly stopped moving, which he knew wasn’t normal. The strange incident in September 2018 was just the latest in a string of odd occurrences. Following months of cramps, twitches and tremors in his legs and hand, the 56-year-old finally decided to visit a doctor. Just three months later, the test results were conclusive and Scott’s worst fears were realised – he had Parkinson’s disease.

“The medical advice was, you know, ‘There’s nothing we can do for you here. Come back when you’re much worse,’” he said.

Parkinson’s disease is an incurable disorder of the nervous system which mostly affects movement. Currently, 145,000 people in the UK are living with the condition. The disease is characterised by motor impairments including tremors, slow movement, muscle rigidity, imbalance and cognitive decline.

While the rate of deterioration varies by individual, the condition often results in major disability after the ten-year mark.

There is currently no treatment for Parkinson’s disease, reports the Manchester Evening News. However, sufferers may be prescribed levodopa, a dopamine-replacement agent used to control symptoms. In Scott’s case, he claimed the drug only made him feel worse.

Though his symptoms were mild at the time of diagnosis, they rapidly deteriorated over the following 18 months. Scott described his left hand as “unreliable”, remembering the time he involuntarily flung his iPhone across the room while attempting to open his calendar app.

Scott claims to have reversed his symptoms

Scott claims to have reversed his symptoms (Image: CrossFit Belfast)

“Your legs would just be moving constantly,” he said. “You’re dancing like Elvis Presley, trying to push the cramps out, and you had no control over it. You’d wake up upside down, (hanging) over the bed.”

Precise movements such as inserting a key into a lock became challenging and the “sticky leg” syndrome continued to plague him at the most inconvenient times, such as waiting to go through airport security.

However, the most debilitating moments came late at night as he was lying in bed, desperate to sleep and tormented by cramps. Scott became so sleep deprived he began having delusions, once getting lost on his way home to the house he’d lived in for more than two decades. With worsening symptoms and poor response to the levodopa, there was little to be done but wait for his inevitable decline. In seven to 12 years, Scott estimated he’d need to move into assisted living.

“It was clear that conventional medicine had little or nothing to offer me other than six-monthly reviews,” he said.

Unwilling to resign himself to an early move-in date at the nursing home, Scott, from Belfast, scoured the web for strategies to combat the symptoms of PD. Two stuck out as the most effective – learning a new skill and exercise.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

At the time, about halfway into 2019, Scott was fairly inactive. He coached a youth rugby team and took his dog for daily walks but he was overweight and suffered from hypertension. Other than a brief stint training with one of his rugby athletes, Scott rarely went to the gym. And, by the time he decided to try exercising to treat his symptoms, gyms across Northern Ireland were closed due to the Covid pandemic.

Following YouTube videos and high-intensity interval-training and boxing apps, he decided to start training in his back garden. The goal was to stimulate his mind by avoiding routine, and by early 2021, he began to see his symptoms improving.

“I was pretty convinced at that point that the sum of one plus two was indeed greater than three,” he said, referring to the benefit of combining physical and mental intensity.

When lockdown restrictions were lifted in Belfast in March 2021 to allow outdoor group training, Scott joined CrossFit Belfast. By July 2021, after just three months of being at the gym, Scott described himself as “95 per cent symptom free”. Not only did he lose 30lb, he no longer had tremors or “sticky feet” and was sleeping throughout the night.

In December 2021, Scott had a check-in with his neurologist, who brought along two of his colleagues to witness the spectacle that was Scott’s improvement. He claims they had never seen anyone reverse their Parkinson’s symptoms and his case has never been seen in the Western world.

Scott says doctors are currently studying scans of his brain to gain further insight into his miraculous 180 – but he doesn’t need to see the paperwork.

“It’s somewhat irrelevant,” he said. “I don’t need a scan to tell me X, Y, or Z. I have wiped all symptoms (of PD).”

Being active can help those with Parkinson’s disease manage their symptoms, according to the Parkinson’s UK charity. According to the organisation, the more physically active you are, the easier it is to live well with the illness. This is because physical activity can have a positive impact on symptoms, both physically and mentally.

The charity says being active for at least 2.5 hours a week can be “just as important” as medication to help take control of symptoms.

Tim Morton, physical activity programme manager for Parkinson’s UK, said: “Being active is so important for people with Parkinson’s as it can help to manage symptoms, maintain health and lift your mood.

“There’s currently no definitive evidence that exercise can reverse the symptoms of Parkinson’s, but the more physically active you are, the easier it is to live well with the condition.”

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