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Article re Parkinson's


Speech and Breathing in Parkinson's Disease

By: Tracy Lloyd, MS, CCC, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center

On November 5, 1997 I was lucky enough to attend the COPS meeting where Nancy Zi was lecturing on The Art of Breathing.  This is an important topic because as much as 50% to 90% of people diagnosed with Parkinson's disease develop speech disorders which can be helped b appropriate breathing techniques.  These speech disorders (Dysarthria) are a result of incoordination and rigidity of the speech musculature such as respiration, phonation and prosody ("sing-song" quality of connected speech).

Symptoms that persons with Parkinson's disease may develop:

  • Incomplete vocal fold adduction which may result in a breathy vocal quality.
  • Reduced loudness of the voice.
  • Rate, timing a prosodic disturbances.
  • Imprecise articulation of sounds (speech that is slurred).
  • A voice that fades towards the end of a sentence.
  • Tremor in the vocal quality.
  • Diminished range of motion.
  • rigidity of respiratory and laryngeal muscles

    Nancy Zi's techniques can aid in the management of the above mentioned symptoms, as well as overall well being of the psyche.  Nancy states "20,000 times a day you have the power to take a deep breath - and revitalize your life.  By making sure that the air you breathe is effectively inhaled, energized, and exhaled, you can improve your health and bring vitality to all your physical movements and expressions."   Nancy's book and her video, The Art of Breathing, breaks down abdominal deep breathing into six lessons which include twenty-four exercises, imagery drills and practical applications.

To improve speech deficits like the deficits described above, all exercises need to be practiced and done regularly.  to improve all these symptoms it must begin with appropriate breathing techniques.

Nancy also incorporates range of motion exercises into her lessons for the articulators.  To improve clarity of articulation, tongue and jaw exercises can be utilized, as under lesson 2 "Coordinating the Breath" and the exercises "Activating the Tongue Muscles" and "Controlling the Tip and the Root of the Tongue."  These exercises can help to reduce the slurred speech that many people with Parkinson's disease experience.

During Nancy's presentation to the COPS group she was able to use "chi" energy to reduce and temporarily eliminate an individual's arm tremors.  Just thing, with practices this "chi" energy, which she describes, bar better than I, in her book and video, could help the person with Parkinson's disease reduce some of the tremors experienced.

Nancy has done a wonderful job of describing and breaking down breathing into a "cookbook" approach for us to understand.  Being a Speech Pathologist, I try to utilize her techniques daily for all my patients.

For more information, please contact the COPS office or feel free to contact Tracy Lloyd, MS, CCC at (562) 933-9036.