Research Article | Open Access
Active Theater as a Complementary Therapy for Parkinson's Disease Rehabilitation: A Pilot Study
Most medical treatments of Parkinson's disease (PD) are aimed at the reduction of motor symptoms. However, even when motor improvements are evident, patients often report a deterioration of their daily lives. Thus, to achieve a global improvement in personal well-being, not only drugs, but also complementary therapies, such as physical exercise, occupational and speech therapy, and active music therapy, have been used. We hypothesized that theater could reduce clinical disability and improve the quality of life of PD patients (primary end points) more efficiently than other complementary therapies because (1) in order to impersonate a character, patients are forced to regain the control of their bodies; and (2) while being part of a group, patients have a high degree of social interaction. The need to regain the control of their bodies and their social functioning is very likely to deeply motivate patients. To assess this hypothesis, we ran a randomized, controlled, and single-blinded study that lasted 3 years, on 20 subjects affected by a moderate form of idiopathic PD, in stable treatment with L-dopa and L-dopa agonists, and without severe sensory deficits. Ten patients were randomly assigned to an active theater program (in which patients were required to participate), while the others underwent physiotherapy (control group), the most common nonpharmacological treatment for PD rehabilitation. Patients of both groups were evaluated at the beginning of each year, using five clinical rating scales (Unified ParkinsonParkinson'ss Disease Rating Scale [UPDRS], Schwab and England Scale, ParkinsonParkinson'ss Disease Quality of Life [PDQ39] Scale, Epworth Sleepiness Scale, and Hamilton Depression Rating Scale). The theater patients showed progressive improvements and, at the end of the third year, they showed significant improvements in all clinical scales. Conversely, the control patients did not exhibit significant ameliorations with time. Thus, the present study provides the first scientific evidence that active theater, coupled with conventional medical treatments, represents a valid complementary therapeutic intervention for PD treatment.