It's Parkinson's, Playaz... Sharon Kha Raps for Awareness

Could Rapping Cut Parkinson's Symptoms?

Viviano said he believes Kha's rapping may help her not only psychologically, but physiologically as well. Indeed, past research has suggested that music can be used therapeutically in Parkinson's patients to help them control the muscle movements that come along with the condition.

In 2000, for example, a small Italian study showed that Parkinson's patients who participated in music therapy enjoyed fewer symptoms and a higher quality of life than those who did not receive such therapy.

Other activities that involve rhythmic movements have likewise shown benefit in some of these patients.

Thus far, no study on rapping's effect on Parkinson's has been conducted; however, Parkinson's experts said the idea that it can be helpful is not an outlandish one.

"Strong beats -- from rap or counting, et cetera -- can help people with PD move better," said Dr. Joel Perlmutter, head of the Movement Disorders Section at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo.

Other activities have been shown to help.

"It has long been recognized that dancing and other rhythmic activities help mobility in Parkinson's disease," said Dr. Cheryl Waters, professor in the Division of Movement Disorders at Columbia University in New York.

Dr. Mark Stacy, professor of neurology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., said certain activities may help blunt the tremors and tics of Parkinson's by engaging the brain -- essentially occupying the mind so it is simply too busy to cause the movement disorders.

"The Cleveland Clinic has some reports on vigorous bicycling improving Parkinson's Disease symptoms, and preventing the re-emergence of tremor for a brief period after exercise," Stacy said. "While there are claims of treatment benefit, it may be that the motor program of the vigorous exercise is difficult to stop -- and keeps the tremor at bay."

Rapping for a Cause

Until the research catches up with Kha's rapid-fire lyrics, the chief benefit of her raps may be in the form of both levity and awareness. Kha's creations have become a rallying cry for further support of research on Parkinson's. She calls for greater funding and more support for the condition -- and many of her lyrics seem to motivate her audiences to do the same.

"The real message is to take a positive attitude," Perlmutter said. "That helps -- fight against the disease, and stay as active as possible."

"Any enjoyable activity with social interaction is an ideal way to improve emotional well being," Stacy said. "She appears to be really enjoying herself, as does her participatory audience. ... I think Dr. Kha has done something great for herself and for the Parkinson's Disease community."

Parkinson's Rap a Healthy Dose of Humor

Kha said her lyrics have become a weapon against the condition -- both for her and her audiences.

"I think it's really great to be able to step back from this disease and not see it as this grim, overwhelming force in our life, but be able to laugh at some of the symptoms of the disease," she said.

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