Complementary therapies

Although there's little scientific evidence that treatments or therapies can slow, stop or reverse the development of Parkinson’s, we have heard from many people with the condition who have had positive experiences of complementary therapies.

As with all treatments for Parkinson’s, different therapies work for different people. So we encourage anyone affected by the condition who is interested in complementary therapies to explore what works for them.

There are many complementary therapies available – too many for us to cover them all. So we have brought together the most popular therapies, chosen by people with Parkinson’s and their carers.

This information is designed to help you decide which complementary therapies, if any, are right for you. It also details how people use each therapy and where you can go to find out more.

Parkinson's UK does not endorse any particular therapies.

What is complementary therapy?

For the purposes of this information, complementary therapy refers to treatment used alongside conventional medicine. It shouldn’t be confused with: 

  • alternative medicine, which replaces evidence-based, conventional medicine with medicine based on historical or cultural traditions
  • integrated medicine, a term which describes the combined use of conventional and complementary therapies

While conventional medicine focuses on the treatment of symptoms, complementary therapies adopt a more holistic approach. This means considering all aspects of how a condition may affect someone, rather than just focusing on medical symptoms.

Are complementary therapies beneficial?

There’s no simple answer to this. There are so many types of therapy that it’s impossible to generalise. 

There’s evidence of the beneficial effect of some complementary therapies (see below). For other therapies, there is no research to prove it has any benefits for people with Parkinson’s. But we hear from many people affected who feel it helps them.

It will also depend on what you expect from complementary therapies. For example, you may feel a particular therapy is not having a positive effect on your Parkinson’s symptoms, but you may enjoy the experience. For you, this might be enough of a reason to continue. 

We’ve included comments from people affected by Parkinson’s who have tried some of the therapies. We hope this will give you a better idea of what people are trying and how they found it. But remember that everyone will have a different experience.

Please remember these are people’s personal opinions – Parkinson’s UK doesn’t endorse any particular therapy.

Why do people use complementary therapies?

People may use complementary therapies alongside prescribed medication for many reasons, for example:

  • Conventional medicine might not always control someone’s symptoms.
  • Complementary therapy is a way of taking control of your own health.
  • Group therapy can be an opportunity to socialise. Equally, complementary therapies can be a time to enjoy your own company.
  • Complementary therapies can be relaxing.

The evidence about complementary therapies

Conventional medication goes through a thorough testing process before it becomes available. It’s tested in clinical trials and needs to meet scientific standards to prove it works and is safe. Common side effects are also clearly stated on the patient information leaflet.

Complementary therapies are not as rigorously tested. Some therapies, for example aromatherapy, are not medicine-based. This means they don’t need to go through this form of testing. Instead, researchers will look at a therapy and what practitioners say it can be used for. They then study it to see how effective it is when put into practice. Methods of testing can be varied. Some therapies work for some people and not for others. 

What evidence should I trust?

There’s a lot of information on complementary therapies, particularly on the internet, that claims to be based on scientific evidence. But it’s not all reliable. 

To help make sure you’re reading accurate and useful information – that’s not misleading – you may find it helps to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where is the research published? Research should normally be ‘peer-reviewed’ in professional journals. This means that before the details are released, it has been reviewed by other experts not involved in the study.
  • How many patients were involved in the study? The higher the number, the more reliable the study usually is.
  • Is the result of the study a ‘one-off’ or have other scientists confirmed it?

Why have you included therapies with no scientific evidence?

The therapies in this information have all been chosen because they’re popular with people affected by Parkinson’s.

Just because a therapy can’t be proven to work in a medical trial, or there hasn’t been enough research about whether it helps people with Parkinson’s, it doesn’t mean you won’t find it useful. In fact, we’ve heard from many people who tell us they have benefited from using these therapies.

Many of our local groups organise complementary therapy sessions at their meetings to encourage members to give them a try.

Throughout this information, we highlight what scientific evidence there is to support the use of each therapy.

Can I use complementary therapies instead of taking Parkinson’s medication?

Complementary therapies don’t work as a replacement for Parkinson’s medication. Stopping or making changes to your Parkinson’s medication can be dangerous without the guidance of your specialist or Parkinson’s nurse. 

Are complementary therapies safe?

Generally speaking, the complementary therapies listed in this information are considered safe. But before taking tablets, pills or capsules, applying creams or drops or drinking teas, you should talk to your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse. This is because some herbs and remedies may have side effects or clash with medications you’re already taking. Your healthcare professional may also be able to recommend a therapist, or advise you on other sources of information.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the government agency responsible for making sure that medicines and medical devices work, and are safe. 

Some complementary therapies (for example herbal remedies) may not be safe during pregnancy. So it’s essential that you tell not only your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse but also your complementary therapist if you’re trying for or expecting a baby.  

It’s not always easy to tell what is or isn’t safe and many organisations offering therapy give the impression of being reliable even when they’re not. 

Is a therapy unsafe if it’s not statutorily regulated?

Not necessarily. Some complementary therapies are regulated by statutory law, including osteopaths, chiropractors and art therapists. This means that, in the same way GPs and specialists have to register with the General Medical Council, these therapists must register with a statutory regulator before they can practise. One reason for statutory regulation is the level of risk linked to a particular therapy. For example, the government considered regulating acupuncture, but took the view that because acupuncturists were well self-regulated, it wasn’t needed.  

The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council

The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) was established with government support to regulate some therapies. 

Therapies regulated by the Council include:

  • Alexander technique 
  • aromatherapy
  • Bowen therapy
  • massage therapy
  • reflexology
  • Reiki 
  • Shiatsu

The list of CNHC-regulated therapies discussed in this booklet is not exhaustive. Because registration of these therapies with CNHC is voluntary, not all the practitioners of the therapies are registered. To find out more and to see the full list of CNHC-regulated therapies, visit their website.

Other complementary therapies are gradually moving towards a system of stricter self-regulation. See below for more information on professional associations.

How do I find a good therapist?

Before choosing a therapist it’s important to find out if they’re reputable, insured and, where relevant, belong to a regulatory body.

You may find it helpful to ask:

  • your GP, specialist, Parkinson’s nurse or other healthcare professional. Many hospitals and GP surgeries now work together with complementary therapists
  • someone else with Parkinson’s, a friend or family member
  • your Parkinson’s local adviser

Always check the therapist’s credentials. Some complementary therapists use the ‘Dr’ title, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve studied conventional medicine. An honest, reliable practitioner won’t mind you asking about their qualifications.

Professional associations

Many therapists are members of reputable, professional organisations. These organisations can be useful sources of information. Be aware that some organisations may make claims that aren’t backed up by good evidence.

We list a number of professional organisations for each complementary therapy. If you’re doing your own research, bear in mind that a high quality professional association requires its members to:

  • complete some kind of formal qualification, which will usually include a training programme and an exam
  • stay up to date in their field by continuing their professional training and development
  • follow a code of ethics and professional conduct
  • have insurance
  • report any side effects when they happen

When you find a therapist, here are a few questions you should ask:

  • What, if any, risks are associated with the treatment you offer and what steps will you take to prevent problems?
  • What professional organisations are you registered with?
  • How much does the treatment cost and how long will it last?

Finally, it’s important to find a therapist you feel comfortable with and who you like. This will help make your therapy more successful and enjoyable.

Accessing complementary therapies

Are complementary therapies available on the NHS or the HSC in Northern Ireland?

This will depend on the type of therapy you want and the policy in your area. 

Some hospitals and GP practices offer a few complementary therapies like acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, osteopathy and chiropractic treatments. 

Speak to your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse about what’s available locally. Your Parkinson’s local adviser may also be able to help you. 

Some GPs have training in complementary therapies. If they can’t provide the treatment themselves, they may be able to refer you to a therapist on the NHS.

How much does it cost?

If your chosen therapy isn’t available on the NHS or HSC, you may have to pay. Costs for complementary therapies will vary, depending on the type of therapy you want, the length of the treatment and where you live. 

At your first session the therapist will usually take a medical history and get to know you a bit better. As a result the first session may cost more than any follow-up sessions.

Practitioners usually recommend several treatment sessions. Before committing yourself to a course of treatment, make sure you ask about the cost.

You may also find it useful to ask when you can expect to feel any improvement – and when to call it a day if you don’t see the results you’re hoping for.

Private health insurance may pay for some types of complementary therapy. Before you book a treatment session, ask your insurer if it’s covered by your policy and how to arrange payment. 

I’m a carer. Would I benefit from using complementary therapies?

We’ve heard from many carers who have tried complementary therapies, some with very positive experiences. Again, it’s a personal choice. 

If you care for someone with Parkinson’s, it’s important to look after your own physical and mental health. You may find that complementary therapies are a good way to have time to yourself, reduce stress and do something you enjoy. 

In some areas, the NHS, local councils and charities offer free or low-cost therapies to carers. Speak to your GP or a Parkinson’s local adviser about what’s available in your area. 

Useful general contacts for complementary therapies

  • The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council

  • Health and Care Professions Council

  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (USA)
    This American website is a rich source of high quality information on many different complementary therapies.

  • NHS Choices website
    There is a good library of online information about complementary therapies. There are also links to professional organisations, so you can learn more and find a qualified therapist.

  • NHS National Library for Health
    Designed for NHS health professionals, it’s also freely accessible to the public and is an excellent resource for information about the latest research.

  • The Research Council for Complementary Medicine
    For anyone interested in the scientific evidence supporting complementary therapies. The website is based at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (part of the NHS).

  • Your public library
    Increasingly, health information is available on the internet. If you do not have access to the internet, you may be able to use it free of charge at your local public library. Your library may also offer training on how to use the internet. Sometimes the librarian can help you find information online.

    Many public libraries now have links to the NHS and other services, so feel free to ask for local information.

    Your local public library may have a good selection books on complementary therapies.

What are the main complementary therapies used by people with Parkinson’s?

The rest of this information looks at some complementary therapies you may find helpful. Please remember that although we’ve included them here, we can’t recommend any particular therapy.  

Our forum is also a great place to find out what people are trying and how they feel about different therapies. 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of ancient Chinese medicine. It involves a therapist inserting thin needles at particular points on your body. 

Traditional practitioners believe that energy flows round the body through channels which, when blocked, can cause illness. The role of acupuncture is to unblock the channels.

Some scientists believe the needles act to stimulate muscles and nerves, which is what causes the effects.

Acupuncture needles are very fine so shouldn’t cause a lot of pain. Your therapist will stimulate them manually using heat, pressure, electrical currents or laser light. 

How might Acupuncture help?

Acupuncture is used to control and relieve pain. This includes headaches, joint pain and neck pain. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), which provides guidelines to the NHS, only recommends using acupuncture to treat chronic, tension-type headaches and migraines. However, some people have said it’s helped them with depression, anxiety and insomnia too.

Studies have found acupuncture has led to some improvement in Parkinson’s symptoms. For example, studies in a rat model of Parkinson’s suggested that acupuncture can promote the survival of dopamine-producing brain cells (the cells Parkinson’s affects).

Is Acupuncture safe?

When a qualified practitioner carries it out, acupuncture is generally very safe. It may have some minor side effects but these are short-lived. These may include slight pain, bleeding or bruising where the needle pierced the skin, and feeling sick, drowsy or faint after treatment.

Make sure your acupuncturist is fully qualified and that they use disposable needles at every treatment session. 

Acupuncture isn’t regulated by the government. In 2009, the Department of Health ran a consultation about whether to introduce regulation, but concluded that the voluntary regulation already in place was robust enough.

As acupuncture involves piercing the skin, all acupuncturists must register with their local authority for health and safety reasons.

Acupuncturists may also voluntarily register with a number of regulatory bodies (see below) all of which have guidelines and codes of conduct. If you decide to use acupuncture, check that your chosen practitioner is qualified and registered with one of the listed bodies.

Some healthcare professionals, including doctors and physiotherapists, offer acupuncture alongside regular medical treatment.

Useful contacts

  • British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) 
    A registered charity which encourages the use and scientific understanding of acupuncture within medicine. Members are regulated healthcare professionals who offer acupuncture as part of their practice.

Alexander Technique

The Alexander technique teaches improved posture and movement. During a number of lessons you're taught to be more aware of your body, how to improve poor posture and move more efficiently.

Teachers of the Alexander technique believe this helps get rid of tension in your body and relieves problems including back pain, neck ache, sore shoulders and other musculoskeletal problems.

During a class, your teacher will probably ask you to perform some simple movements before guiding your body as you move to relieve tension. Sessions can be one-to-one or in groups. 

How might the alexander technique help?

There’s evidence from one scientific study of fewer than 100 people that the Alexander technique may help to relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s, including pain, speech, tremor, depression and balance.

NICE clinical guidelines recommend that people with Parkinson’s consider the Alexander technique to help with balance or motor problems.

Is the alexander technique safe?

Alexander technique lessons shouldn’t be painful.

Alexander technique teachers aren’t statutorily regulated but may register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council.

Useful contacts

  • Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT)
    The society aims to ensure the highest standards of teacher training and professional practice, promote public awareness and understanding of the Alexander technique, and encourage research.

  • The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council 
    Alexander technique teachers are able to register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. You can check the Council’s website to find a CNHC-registered Alexander technique teacher in your area, or to find out if your teacher is registered.
  • Interactive Teaching Method Association 
    This organisation exists to promote the Alexander technique, act as a point of contact between teachers and the public, maintain teaching standards, and provide support and continuing professional development for teachers.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapists use essential oils from plants to treat symptoms such as anxiety, stress, insomnia and depression. The oils are diluted and can be massaged into the skin, inhaled or used in creams or in the bath. The oils are said to have chemical properties that can positively affect your physical and mental health. 

How might aromatherapy help?

Many people use aromatherapy to help them relax. There hasn’t been much research on how aromatherapy may help with Parkinson’s. Research suggests it can have a mild, temporary calming effect on anxiety, but another study said the evidence available wasn’t good enough to prove aromatherapy could effectively treat any condition.

Aromatherapy is one of the more commonly offered therapies in NHS hospitals with complementary medicine programmes. Speak to your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse about availability in your area. 

Is aromatherapy safe?

Aromatherapy is generally very safe. However essential oils are highly concentrated and shouldn’t be swallowed. They should be diluted before being applied to the skin to avoid irritation. Some people may have an allergic reaction to some essential oils.

Speak to your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse before you use essential oils, especially if you’re pregnant or have epilepsy, heart problems, high blood pressure, asthma or diabetes. 

Aromatherapists aren’t statutorily regulated but can register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council.

Useful contacts

  • The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council
    Aromatherapists can register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. You can check the Council’s website to find a CNHC-registered aromatherapist in your area, or to find out if your practitioner is registered.

Art therapy

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art as a way of communicating feelings and thoughts. Practitioners believe it is an effective way to express specific emotional and physical issues. You can do sessions with qualified art therapists in groups or individually. 

How might art therapy help?

While there’s evidence that art therapy can be effective for people with depression or stress, there’s no evidence in the case of people with Parkinson’s.

However, many people with Parkinson’s have told us that being creative helps them to focus their mind, relax and express their emotions in a positive way. 

Is art therapy safe?

Art therapy is regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council and is available through the NHS. The Council is a government body which regulates health professionals just as the General Medical Council regulates GPs and specialists. Art therapists must be registered to practise. 

Useful contacts

  • Some local Parkinson’s UK groups offer regular creative sessions, including art classes.
  • You can also help to make the most of creative activities by speaking to an occupational therapist. In some areas, you can contact an occupational therapist directly through your local social services or social work department. Otherwise, your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse should be able to refer you. 
  • The British Association of Art Therapists
    The professional organisation for art therapists in the UK, with its own Code of Ethics of Professional Practice.
  • The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
    You can check an art therapist’s registration by contacting this organisation.

Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a traditional Indian medical system. It’s called a system because more than one technique is involved. What technique is used depends on the person being treated.

Ayurveda can combine treatments such as diet and lifestyle advice, herb supplements, and physical treatments such as full-body massage and meditation.

The aim is to cleanse the body, reduce symptoms, increase resistance to disease and promote mental calm. 

How might Ayurveda help?

People may use Ayurveda to build and maintain an overall sense of good health and wellbeing. 

Although there have been some small studies of Ayurveda, none have been of a good enough quality to prove its effectiveness. Larger, better-designed studies are needed before we can be sure how effective Ayurveda is.

Is Ayurveda safe?

Some therapies used in Ayurveda may react with certain medications. It’s essential that you talk to your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse before you start treatment.

In the past the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has issued warnings about dangerous or contaminated supplies of Ayurvedic medicines. Check the MHRA website if you have any concerns.

Ayurveda practitioners aren’t regulated by law. Check that your therapist is registered with a professional body and is insured. 

Useful contacts

  • Ayurvedic Practitioners Association
    An independent, professional association of Ayurvedic practitioners. You can contact them to find out more about Ayurveda and find therapists local to you.

Bowen technique

Bowen technique is a very gentle, touch-based therapy. Practitioners aim to restore balance in the body by softly manipulating muscles and soft tissue. They use their fingers and thumbs to make small, rolling movements over precise points on your body.

How might Bowen technique help?

Bowen technique may be used for a range of physical and emotional conditions, including pain, muscular problems, stress and difficulties sleeping. There have been some small studies for its use in pain relief and stress, but a recent review of the evidence showed that more detailed studies were needed.

There have been no scientific studies to support the use of Bowen therapy in Parkinson’s. However, people with Parkinson’s have found it helpful.

Is Bowen technique safe?

Bowen therapists aren’t regulated by law, but they can register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council.

Useful contacts

  • The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council
    Bowen therapists can register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. You can check the Council’s website to find a CNHC-registered Bowen therapist in your area, or to find out if your practitioner is registered.
  • The Bowen Therapy Professional Association
    An independent, professional association of Bowen therapy practitioners. You can contact them to find out more about the Bowen technique, find qualified teachers and read about how they assess their members.
  • The Bowen Association UK
    Provides technical and practical support for Bowen therapists and their clients, and a practitioner referral service for the general public.

Chiropractic

Chiropractors believe the spine influences all aspects of our health, so chiropractic treatment focuses on bringing bones, joints, muscles and the nervous system into balance. Chiropractors tend to focus on the area around the spine, using spine manipulation.

Typically, the first session will involve an assessment of your health, medical history and a physical examination. The chiropractor will then use manual techniques to manipulate the spine and may also work on joints, muscles and soft tissue. Chiropractors may also give advice on health, diet, exercise and lifestyle.                              

How might Chiropractic help?

Chiropractic is commonly used for conditions affecting the muscles, bones and joints. Most people use chiropractic to relieve pain, especially back and neck pain. There’s some evidence that chiropractic can help with this.

Chiropractic can also be used to treat mental health conditions, such as phobias, depression and anxiety, but there is little evidence of its effectiveness.

There are no studies on the effects of chiropractic on people with Parkinson’s.

Is Chiropractic safe?

There’s statutory regulation for chiropractic in the UK. This means it’s illegal for anyone to practise or to call themselves a chiropractor unless they’re registered with the General Chiropractic Council.

Chiropractic isn’t usually painful, but some people may experience mild side effects up to 24 hours after a chiropractic session, including stiffness, fatigue and pain.

There’s a risk of more serious problems, such as stroke, from spinal manipulation, but the risk is extremely small.

Useful contacts

  • Chiropractic is available on the NHS in some areas. Ask your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse about availability. Be aware that funding is limited and most people pay for chiropractic if they choose it as a treatment option.
  • General Chiropractic Council
    Regulates the chiropractic profession. You can contact them to find out more about chiropractic, find a chiropractor near you, or to check if a chiropractor is registered.

Conductive education

Conductive education is a rehabilitation system. As the name suggests, its approach is educational rather than therapeutic. It aims to teach adults and children with neurological conditions that affect movement, like Parkinson’s, how to overcome everyday problems.

How might conductive education help?

Some people find that conductive education helps to control the physical symptoms of Parkinson’s, including tremor, rigidity and slowness of movement. By learning strategies which help overcome movement and other everyday problems, conductive education can increase feelings of confidence and independence.

Although conductive education is well established as a treatment for Parkinson’s, there is little supporting medical evidence for its effectiveness.

Is conductive education safe?

Always check your conductor is registered with a professional body and is insured.

Useful contacts

Feldenkrais method

The idea of Feldenkrais is that by becoming more aware of your own movements, you can improve your mobility and general wellbeing. The method is based on martial-arts theory and has been developed to help people with everyday problems, like difficulties with balance or turning over in bed.

It’s regarded as educational rather than therapeutic. Lessons may involve doing a sequence of movements that involve thinking, sensing, moving and imagining.

How might Feldenkrais help?

Studies show that Feldenkrais helps with balance and mobility. People also use it to find relief from tension and pain, to improve breathing and performance, and for general wellbeing. As yet, there have been few studies of the method specifically for the treatment of Parkinson’s, but there are some indications that the method improves quality of life.

Is Feldenkrais safe?

Feldenkrais is generally safe for everyone. But check your teacher is registered with a professional body and is insured.

Useful contacts

Herbal medicine

Herbal medicine is the use of plants and plant extracts to treat illnesses. They are often taken as drops, capsules or tea. Herbal medicines can be quite powerful. Many of today’s common drugs come from plants or are based on chemicals found in them.

Herbalists, who prescribe complex herbal mixtures, can offer professional advice and will also recommend diet, exercise and lifestyle measures. Some herbal medicines are sold in health food shops and pharmacies.

How might Herbal medicine help?

Herbs are used for a wide variety of conditions. There is some evidence that certain herbs, like St John’s Wort, may help with depression and some skin conditions. But be aware that the herbal remedy St John's Wort, which can be used for depression, is not recommended for people with Parkinson's. This is because St John’s Wort can interact with your Parkinson’s drugs.

St John’s Wort is also often mixed with other components to create different brands of the herbal remedy. This could increase the possibility of side effects and interactions.

Small trials have been carried out with plants commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to relieve Parkinson’s symptoms (see the section on Ayurveda). More research is needed to establish conclusively whether herbs are helpful in the treatment of Parkinson’s symptoms.

Is Herbal medicine safe?

You should always talk to your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse before taking herbal medicines or supplements in case they have serious side effects or interfere with your usual medication.

Some herbal medicines shouldn’t be taken during pregnancy – again, check with your GP.

Make sure your herbal medicine comes from a reliable source. In the past the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has found supplies of contaminated herbs. (Check the MHRA website or ask your GP about any recent alerts).

Useful contacts

Homeopathy

Homeopaths believe conditions can be cured by giving someone an extremely diluted dose of a remedy that, in large doses, would trigger the symptoms.

Homeopaths believe this ‘like for like’ principle stimulates the body’s own healing power so it clears itself of any imbalance. The remedies come from various sources, including plants, animals and minerals.

Homeopaths will discuss your medical history, symptoms and how these affect you. They may also ask about your lifestyle, eating habits and preferences, and your personality.

At the end of the consultation the homeopath may give you a prescription and advise you on how often you should take the medicine. Homeopathic remedies are usually taken in pill form, but are also available as a liquid or powder. You may be prescribed a homeopathic gel or cream for use on the skin as well.

How might Homeopathy help?

Homeopaths believe homeopathy can help with any condition in which the body has the potential to self-repair. As a result, they suggest homeopathy can be used to treat a wide range of acute and chronic medical conditions.

Homeopathy is popular. However, despite extensive research, there's no good quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition. There are no studies on homeopathy for Parkinson’s.

Homeopathy isn't widely available on the NHS. In 2017, NHS England recommended that GPs and other prescribers should stop providing it. It is available privately.

Practitioners

Some health professionals, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, are trained in homeopathy and use it alongside conventional medical treatment. They’re all regulated by their relevant professional body – for example, GPs are regulated by the General Medical Council.

Some homeopaths aren’t medically qualified. Currently, there are no national standards of training and accreditation for these practitioners. If you decide to see a homeopath who isn’t medically qualified, you should check they’re insured and registered with a professional body.

Is Homeopathy safe?

Homeopathic remedies are generally safe, and the risk of a serious adverse side effect from taking them is thought to be small.

There’s no research to suggest homeopathic medicines react negatively with Parkinson’s medication, but you should always speak to your GP, Parkinson’s nurse or specialist before taking any kind of medication.

Useful contacts

Kinesiology

Kinesiology means ‘the study of body movement’. The treatment you receive will depend on your kinesiology practitioner.

Kinesiologists believe each muscle is connected to an organ. Therapists apply pressure to different parts of the body to see how the muscle responds (sometimes known as muscle testing). If the muscle’s weak, they believe it means there’s a problem with the organ. How muscles respond to gentle pressure reveals how the whole body is functioning and helps locate any imbalance.

At the end of the session you may be advised on lifestyle changes (particularly dietary changes), given specific exercises to do or recommendations on supplements.

How might kinesiology help?

Kinesiology is used to diagnose and treat a variety of health problems. There are no good quality studies demonstrating that kinesiology is effective.

Is kinesiology safe?

Kinesiologists aren’t currently regulated by law. Check that your therapist is registered with a professional body and is insured.

Useful contacts

Massage therapy

People have used massage for thousands of years to heal injuries, promote relaxation and encourage better movement. There are many different types of massage from traditions around the world.

A massage therapist may use various techniques including stroking, kneading and rubbing to manipulate the body using pressure. Massage may be gentle or vigorous and may focus on one area or the whole body.

How might Massage therapy help?

Research suggests that massage may help to reduce pain and anxiety and depression, although there’s no conclusive evidence. Abdominal massage may also help with constipation.

Many people with Parkinson’s and their carers have told us they find massage therapy useful as a way to relax and to have time to themselves.

Is Massage therapy safe?

Massage therapy shouldn’t hurt, although there may be some discomfort if pressure is applied to injured areas, or where your body is very tense.

Massage may not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions, a history of blood clots, or weak or broken bones.

If you have wounds or bruises you should wait until these are healed before booking a massage appointment.

Massage therapists aren’t regulated by law, but they may register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council.

Useful contacts

  • The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council
    Massage therapists can register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. You can check the Council’s website to find a CNHC-registered massage therapist in your area, or to find out if your practitioner is registered.
  • General Council for Massage Therapies
    The governing body for massage therapies and all body work and soft tissue techniques in the UK. Contact them to find a massage therapist local to you or visit the website to find links to other professional organisations for massage therapy.

Meditation and relaxation techniques

Meditation has been used worldwide for thousands of years. Although often associated with religion and spirituality, it’s increasingly used for health reasons.

There are many forms of meditation but they all aim to create a sense of calm. During meditation, the mind is in a state of restful alertness while the body becomes more relaxed. You can meditate in a group or alone.

Guided imagery or visualisation (forming pictures in your mind) are related techniques which are sometimes combined with muscle relaxation. Tai chi, mindfulness and yoga all incorporate elements of meditation.

How might Meditation and relaxation techniques help?

People use meditation to relieve pain, stress, depression and insomnia, and to achieve a general sense of wellbeing.

There is some evidence that meditation and related techniques can help with stress and anxiety.

Are Meditation and relaxation techniques safe?

Meditation is generally considered to be safe. Currently, meditation teachers are not regulated by law. Check that your therapist is registered with a professional body and is insured.

Useful contacts

Because there are many different types of meditation and relaxation classes, it isn’t possible to list them all here, or suggest which type would be best for you.

  • Relaxation and meditation are offered in hospitals and community centres that provide complementary therapies. Your GP, specialist, Parkinson’s nurse or local council or library may be able to tell you about nearby classes.
  • Some local Parkinson’s UK groups offer relaxation therapies, including meditation.

Music therapy

Music therapy is the use of music by trained professionals as a treatment for some physical and mental conditions. You don’t need to know anything about music to enjoy music therapy.

How might Music therapy help?

It’s been suggested that music can improve movement and speech and help people to relax or talk about their feelings or ideas.

Some people with Parkinson’s find that listening to strong rhythmic music can improve their walking, prevent hesitations and overcome freezing episodes.

In general, research indicates that music seems to help people with conditions such as Parkinson’s improve their emotional sense of wellbeing.

Is music therapy safe?

Music therapists are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council and must be registered to practise.

Useful contacts

  • Music therapy is available in some areas on the NHS. Ask your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse about services in your area.
  • British Association for Music Therapy
    This organisation has information about music therapy and how to find a music therapist in your area.     

Osteopathy

Osteopaths stretch, move and massage muscles and joints to treat health problems. They’ll use their hands to find areas of tenderness, restriction or strain in your body.

How might Osteopathy help?

Osteopathy is commonly used for conditions caused by problems with the nerves, joints and muscles, such as back and neck problems, joint pain or injuries. NICE guidelines recommend that osteopathy be considered as a treatment for back pain.

Some osteopaths believe they can also help relieve general health problems such as asthma, jaw problems and painful periods. However there is no good evidence that this is true.

Is Osteopathy safe?

Generally, osteopathy is classed as safe. There are some reports that manipulation techniques have caused serious complications like spinal injury or stroke, but these are rare. Some osteopathic manipulations are unsuitable for people with bone problems, bleeding disorders or other conditions. They are also not recommended for people on blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin.

You should check that your osteopath is qualified and also let them know about any health problems and medications you’re taking. After treatment, you may feel some mild side effects, such as stiffness, discomfort or tiredness.

All UK osteopaths must be qualified and registered with the General Osteopathic Council.

Useful contacts

  • Osteopathy is available in some areas on the NHS, though most people will have to pay for private treatment. Ask your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse about what is available in your area.
  • General Osteopathic Council
    The General Osteopathic Council regulates the practice of osteopathy in the UK. The website features information about osteopathy, how to find qualified practitioners and what to expect from a treatment session.

Reflexology

Reflexology is based on the theory that different points on the feet and hands correspond with different areas of the body. By massaging chosen areas of the feet and hands, the corresponding area of the body can be treated.

How might Reflexology help?

Reflexology is often used to promote relaxation, and to help with a wide range of problems, including digestive and hormonal issues, stiffness in the back and neck, and insomnia.

There’s no conclusive evidence that reflexology works for any medical condition. A very small study has shown that reflexology may help with the wellbeing of people with Parkinson’s. However, a larger study is needed to confirm this.

Is Reflexology safe?

Reflexologists aren’t regulated by law, but they may register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council.

Check that your therapist is registered with a professional body and is insured.

Reflexology may not be suitable if you have diabetes, epilepsy, thyroid or foot problems or a blood disorder.

During treatment, some areas of your feet may feel tender. Some people experience a reaction to their first treatment, such as feeling emotional or needing to pass urine.

Useful contacts

Reiki

Reiki was originally developed in Japan. In Japanese, ‘Reiki’ means universal life energy.

Practitioners believe that Reiki promotes healing by bringing you into harmony and balance.

During treatment, the practitioner channels healing energy by placing their hands on or near your body. The whole person is treated, rather than specific symptoms.

How might Reiki help?

Practitioners use Reiki to bring comfort and to support healing for a range of conditions. A study showed that Reiki may have some benefits for pain relief.

Reiki is also used to treat anxiety and depression, although a study concluded it didn’t have a significant effect.

Is Reiki safe?

Reiki therapists aren't regulated by law, but may register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council.

Useful contacts

  • The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council
    Reiki therapists can register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. You can check the Council’s website to find a CNHC-registered Reiki therapist in your area, or to find out if your practitioner is registered.
  • The Reiki Council
    This organisation has links to several professional reiki organisations.

Shiatsu

Shiatsu is a Japanese form of massage therapy. A practitioner uses touch, pressure and manipulative techniques to adjust the body’s physical structure and balance its energy flow. It’s designed to support and strengthen the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

How might Shiatsu help?

Shiatsu is often used to help with relaxation. Shiatsu is sometimes used to treat frozen shoulder, a symptom associated with Parkinson’s. However, there’s no clinical evidence to prove its effectiveness.

Is Shiatsu safe?

Shiatsu is generally safe. After the first few treatments, some people can experience side effects including headaches, stiffness, stomach upsets, diarrhoea, the desire to urinate frequently or lethargy. Speak to the Shiatsu practitioner before starting treatment if you have any concerns.

Shiatsu therapists aren’t regulated by law but they may register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council.

Useful contacts

  • The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council
    Shaitsu practitioners can register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. You can check the Council’s website to find a CNHC-registered Shaitsu practitioner in your area, or to find out if your practitioner is registered.
  • Shiatsu Society
    This is a non-profit organisation which represents all styles and the majority of Shiatsu practitioners, schools and students in the UK. Contact them to find out more about Shiatsu, how they regulate their members and find qualified practitioners.

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Complementary therapies and Parkinson’s (PDF, 655KB)

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Mindfulness and Parkinson's

Practising mindfulness can help with mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression. We've developed a series of videos and an audio session to guide you through some basic mindfulness techniques.

Find out more

Last updated November 2018. We review all our information within 3 years. If you'd like to find out more about how we put our information together, including references and the sources of evidence we use, please contact us at [email protected].