Parkinson’s: ‘Playing piano helps me cope with my disease’

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Media captionDerick Davies has taught himself to play the piano despite a tremor in his hand

A man with Parkinson’s disease believes learning to play the piano has helped to slow its effects on his body.

Derick Davies was diagnosed with the progressive neurological disorder in 2008.

The 74-year-old has symptoms such as tremors, but said it has progressed more slowly than doctors predicted: “I put this down to the piano, and to trying to have a positive attitude.”

Parkinson’s UK said music could help people and called for more research.

Mr Davies, of Llanrwst, Conwy county, said the piano was a good choice for him, but may not suit others managing their condition.

“It requires quite a bit of concentration, particularly because Parkinson’s affects your co-ordination,” he said.

Parkinson’s is thought to be linked to a chemical called dopamine, which is lacking in the brains of people with the condition.

He described his diagnosis as “a tremendous shock to the system”, adding: “My immediate response was to say ‘why has this happened to me?’ Then I said ‘why not me’ because I can handle it.”

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Derick Westerman Davies

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Mr Davies’ song about Parkinson’s includes lyrics in which he says he looks forward to every day

The main symptoms are shaking, tremors and stiffness, but depression, memory and sleep problems are also common.

Although there is no cure, treatments do exist to control symptoms.

Parkinson’s UK advocates exercise, but its website admits “there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach”.

Research communications manager Dr Beckie Port said: “Interventions that involve music can offer important starting points in Parkinson’s rehabilitation, effectively acting on motor, as well as non-motor symptoms.”

She said more research could “allow the development of adequate, and increasingly specific and effective music therapy approaches”.

Mr Davies has written a song about his experiences in the hope it will inspire others coping with the disease.

He said: “It’s a message to all Parkinson’s sufferers that if I can do it, perhaps they can do it, perhaps not with music, but with something that can challenge the disease.”

His Parkinson’s “seems to be moving to a worse state at a slower rate than it would be otherwise” and he puts this down to the piano and “trying to have a positive attitude”.

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