The goals of therapy in Parkinson’s include a broad range of coping strategies to help patients better manage the emotional and physical toll of their disease. Stretching, strengthening, and gait and balance training are among the therapies that may help to blunt symptoms, reduce disability, and improve patients’ sense of control and well-being. A discussion of how Pilates’ exercises fit into the existing research in this area would have been informative for patients and their caregivers. The AP story instead relies almost exclusively on the testimonials of Pilates’ studio owners and Parkinson’s patients who have enrolled in Pilates’ classes. Despite the author’s contention that there is no evidence to support the efficacy of Pilates' exercises, many readers will take away the opposite message. The story fails to provide the cost of Pilates’ classes, an accounting of their availability, their potential harms (if any), a scientific estimate of their clinical value, or their context among other medical therapies and interventions for Parkinson’s. Millions of people around the world rely on wire-services articles such as this for meaningful reporting on serious medical conditions. They deserve fewer anecdotes and more science.
The story fails to discuss the cost of a Pilates' program.
The story mentions a Pilates’ pilot study at Oregon Health and Science University that "found improvement in the participants' rigidity and balance," but it makes no attempt to explain or quantify the benefits of that program (or any other) in a scientific fashion.
There is no information on the potential harms associated with Pilates' exercises.
According to the article, there is no scientific research on the ability of Pilates' exercises to blunt the symptoms of Parkinson’s. However, researchers have evaluated many other forms of physical training (e.g. stretching, strengthening, and balance and gait training) in Parkinson’s patients. A discussion of how Pilates’ exercises might fit into the existing research in this area would have been informative for patients and their caregivers.
There are no obvious elements of disease-mongering.
The AP story cites one physician, neurologist Michael S. Okun, MD, but misstates his affiliation. Okun is the national medical director at the National Parkinson Foundation, not the National Medical Foundation (as the AP story states). The article is otherwise entirely reliant on testimonials from the owners of Pilates' studios or patients who have enrolled in Pilates' programs.
The story fails to mention any other therapies for Parkinson’s.
The story says that “a few” Pilates' programs are available around the country, in addition to the program at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). But it cites no source for this assertion.
Though the story implies that Pilates is a novel therapy for Parkinson’s ("no research," "few" instructors), it does not state how long the exercise program has been used to treat Parkinson's or any other condition. And it ignores the fact that researchers have evaluated many other forms of physical training (e.g. stretching, strengthening, and balance and gait training) in Parkinson’s patients.
The Oregon Health and Science University issued a press release about its Pilates pilot program on November 10. This story, 17 days later, included an interview with a patient quoted in the press release, but added other interviews and information as well.