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Dancing Away the Disease

By Joe Ferguson, www.azdailysun.com

The excited beats of tango music reverberate once a week throughout Joseph Carter’s office in the Greentree Plaza shopping center.

The former athlete pushes aside the bulky, specialized equipment used in his rehabilitation clinic to make room for a group of patients to practice the dance steps with a handful of NAU students.

The tango is often tied to romantic imagery, but inside his clinic, it is the path for those with certain neurological conditions to a new, healthier life.

The brains of patients with Parkinson’s Disease are essentially re-mapped while dancing to the driving quarter-note pulse, explains his wife and business partner, Valerie Carter.

She is an expert in neuroscience rehabilitation techniques, teaching classes across the country (as well as at NAU) about evidence-based neuroplastic rehabilitation techniques for patients.

But for Valerie, the passion for helping those with various neurological conditions is deeply rooted in her relationship with her mother, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 23 years ago.

The disease, she explains, is classified by five stages as it progressively robs people of motor control over time.

But regular physical therapy, Valerie says, has been proved to remap the brain, generating new connections to halt the progression and, in some cases, reverse the course of the disease.

“The tango has evidence behind it — there are several scientific articles — that show marked improvement,” Valerie said.

She believes that with regular therapy, whether by dancing or working out on a treadmill, that patients will never have to reach the debilitating final stages of Parkinson’s.

“My mom will never be at Stage 5, ever,” she vows, noting the stage is essentially a death sentence, with people confined to their bed.

She contends it is never too late to start the therapy.

“We’ve had patients who were in Stage 3 and they are now in Stage 2,” Joe says. “We are having people reversing their stages because we are not letting the disease take over.”

About half of their patients have some type of neurological conditions, he says.

The couple has carefully and purposely cultivated their practice in order to cater to this part of the community, working with local doctors as well as support groups since opening their doors six years ago.

“We saw a need for improved neurological rehab here in Flagstaff,” he said.

But don’t let the promise of tango classes fool you. Joseph Carter pushes all of his patients to give him the best workout possible.

“I treat the 80-year-old Parkinson’s patient the same way I treat a high school athlete,” he said. “I give them a hard time, I mess with them, I tease them … I don’t treat them any different than anyone else.”

Carter Rehab currently accepts Medicare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Workers’ Comp and other commercial insurance programs.

Joe Ferguson can be reached at 556-2253 or jferguson@azdailysun.com.

Carter Rehabilitation
1800 S. Milton Rd., Suite 103
(928) 226-0792

Monday thru Friday
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Read more: http://azdailysun.com/business/local/dancing-away-the-disease/article_38feb8cd-2e15-5c3a-b5aa-2a070bb9abb8.html#ixzz1mwZZ8wVW

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