Boxing Program Helps Patients Fight Against Parkinson's Disease

SPRINGDALE, Ark.(KNWA) - Where athletes train to win championships, you will find Jeannie Phillips training to win at life.

"I was losing my balance and tripping a lot and then I began to have the tremors," Phillips said.

Jeanne's battle with Parkinson's began four years ago.

"I was terrified because I knew there wasn't a cure for Parkinson's. And I didn't know what the future held for me. It looked pretty bleak," Phillips said.

Now at early stage two of the degenerative disease, she's regaining control.

"My husband calls it physical therapy on steroids," Phillips said.

Everyday is a fight, with a pair of boxing gloves and the heart of a champion.

"You're punching it. You're getting rid of all the emotions that build up inside of you," Phillips said.

"A lot of those people are at a point, they're at a crossroads where they might want to give up but just showing them that , no, don't give up, let's fight, let's fight for it," Kevin Lightburn said.

Lightburn owns Straightright Boxing in Springdale. After being approached by Healthsouth Rehab, the former boxer now uses his gym to train more than a dozen Parkinson's patients from across the region.

"You're going against yourself. And if you come in everyday and keep trying, you're going to eventually beat yourself. That's the goal," Lightburn said. 

For one hour, two days a  week, this new program focuses on  knocking out Parkinson's four main traits.

Stretching is for stiffness, footwork improves balance, punching helps the tremors, and rills  are for memory and faster reflexes

Boxing is by no means a cure to Parkinson's but it's proving to deliver a powerful blow to its symptoms.

"This is a unique, newer strategy that folks have found that empowers individuals to take back their independence," Michael Hammel said.
 
Hammel, a doctor of physical therapy at Healthsouth Rehab, has seen his patients improve with as few as three classes.

"If you see the things that they're doing, I mean they couldn't do that stuff, they couldn't do that. It's just amazing to see them do it," Lightburn said. 

Each punch giving Jeanne the upper hand over Parkinson's.

"You have to hit it at all angles," Phillips said.

The class meets every Monday and Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. at Straightright Boxing located at 5364 Bleaux Ave, Springdale, AR 72762.

To join this class or other Parkinson's therapy programs contact Mary Plumlee with Healthsouth at maryplumlee@yahoo.com. You can also contact the gym at (479) 365-7760. 


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