Moments of Victory® – “Art in Motion” Helps a Dallas Community Live Well with Parkinson’s

Art in Motion

Each month, we spotlight people in our community who have inspiring stories to tell. Today, we are happy to feature physical therapy graduate students Natalie Valdez and Elizabeth Noble, current volunteers at Tribe Wellness in Dallas, TX.

HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN PHYSICAL THERAPY FOR PEOPLE WITH PARKINSON’S? 

As physical therapy students with a growing understanding of Parkinson’s, we chose to volunteer with Tribe Wellness as a way to support our community, advocate for health and wellness, and to make a difference in the lives of people here who are living with Parkinson’s. 

Tribe Wellness, founded by Dr. Michael Braitsch PT, DPT, uses the power of exercise to promote health, fight impairments, and improve quality of life in individuals with Parkinson’s. They offer group exercise programs steeped in evidence-based exercise interventions, and they use ideas from the best available research to create a community experience.

Physical therapy should not end with the work we do in the clinic. Most physical therapists self-select into the career in order to have a direct impact on people through healthcare, and that is exactly what we were able to accomplish through our partnership with Dr. Braitsch and Tribe Wellness.

HOW DID BOXING HELP SHAPE YOUR PROJECT? 

As part of our doctorate program at Texas Woman’s University, we created an “Art in Motion” project, a way to encourage people with Parkinson’s to live well despite the confusing state of the world right now.

Tribe Wellness founder Dr. Michael Braitsch (right) with a member of the Dallas Parkinson’s community during the “Art in Motion” activity

Non-contact boxing is a recommended recreational activity for people with Parkinson’s because it promotes strength, rotation, posture, balance, and so much more. For these reasons, we chose boxing as the theme for the project, which had two parts. Tribe Wellness members participated in the creation of a masterpiece mural by dipping boxing gloves in paint and using a large canvas as their “punching bag.” As they did so, we assessed their movements for possible deficits in strength, balance, safety, and functionality, which they may have acquired during their time off due to COVID-19. We screened the participants using reliable outcome measures, and then we used the results to cultivate individualized physical therapy treatments.

In addition to encouraging exercise, this project allowed participants to harness their creativity because each took home an individual canvas to paint. Fostering creativity has been shown to transfer to motor skill improvements, so this part of the project gave members physical benefits in addition to feelings of accomplishment upon completion of their art pieces.

Physical activity and creativity helped boost participants’ moods, and they all had fun with smiles on their faces — under their masks, that is!


WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND MOST INSPIRING DURING YOUR TIME WITH TRIBE WELLNESS?

As physical therapists, we have the opportunity to make a direct impact as team members of the Parkinson’s community. The “Art in Motion” experience made this clear. Giving the participants an opportunity to leave the house and come to a safe environment that was properly sanitized and socially distanced gave them a mood boost. On top of that, they were able to take an active role in their health, allowing members of their care team to evaluate any areas negatively impacted by COVID-19 stay-at-home recommendations. Clients were interested to learn how they could improve their health while remaining home and safe.

The participants exuded joy while creating art by “boxing” onto the canvas. It was unexplainably touching to cheer on the participants, almost as if they were in the ring, and then watching them step back and study their masterpiece as if they had just won the belt.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO A PERSON WITH PARKINSON’S WHO IS CONCERNED ABOUT THEIR WELLNESS DURING THE COVID PANDEMIC?

Ultimately, our wish is for people to value movement as medicine. This is why we encourage our clients to get involved in places like Tribe Wellness that center on holistic wellness through community. Unity and connections are important parts of living well with Parkinson’s at any time, but especially during this pandemic. Though the tribe originally felt knocked down with the onset of COVID-19, the “Art in Motion” project gave them an opportunity to stand up and make a knockout difference for the Parkinson’s population.

SHARE YOUR VICTORY

Each month, we spotlight people from our Parkinson’s community who embody living well today – what we call Moments of Victory®. Your story could be featured on our blog and Facebook page so others can learn from your experiences and victories.

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