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Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

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ByBrittney SalineJuly 11, 2022

As far as Scott Hanley knew, he wasn’t wearing magnetic boots.

Even if he were, the sidewalk lining the block of his quiet, residential neighborhood in Belfast, Ireland, was unlikely to be metallic. And he was pretty certain he hadn’t stepped in any glue.

So why wouldn’t his right foot move?

He stared at it for a few seconds.

“And I just thought, ‘Right, OK, this isn’t normal,’” the 56-year-old recalled.

The strange September 2018 incident was the latest in a string of odd occurrences — cramps, twitches, and tremors in his legs and left hand — that prompted Hanley to consult a neurologist.

Three months later, results from a DaTscan imaging test were conclusive: Hanley had Parkinson’s disease (PD), a progressive and incurable disorder of the nervous system primarily affecting movement. The disease, which an estimated 8.5 million people worldwide had in 2019, is characterized by motor impairments — such as tremors, slow movement, muscle rigidity, and imbalance — as well as cognitive decline. The rate of progression varies by individual, but often results in major disability after the 10-year mark.

There is currently no treatment for PD, although sufferers may be prescribed levodopa, a dopamine-replacement agent used to control symptoms of PD. In Hanley’s case, the drug only worsened them.

At that point, “the medical advice was, you know, ‘There’s nothing we can do for you here. Come back when you’re much worse,’” Hanley recalled.

Cosplaying the KingScott Hanley does a box jump at CrossFit Belfast

Though Hanley’s symptoms were mild at the time of diagnosis — he was diagnosed with Stage 2 PD, considered to be a moderate stage of disease development — they worsened over the next 18 months. He described his left hand as “unreliable,” recounting the time he involuntarily flung his iPhone across the room while attempting to open his calendar app. Precise movements such as inserting a key into a lock became challenging, and the “sticky leg” syndrome continued to plague him at the most inopportune times — including while in line waiting to go through airport security and while exiting his car on the side of a busy road.

But the most debilitating moments came late at night as he was lying in bed, desperate to sleep and tormented by cramps.

“Your legs would just be moving constantly,” Hanley said. “You’re dancing like Elvis Presley, trying to push the cramps out, and you had no control over it. You’d wake up upside down, (hanging) over the bed.”

Hanley became so sleep deprived he began having delusions, once getting lost on his way home to the house he’d lived in for more than two decades.

With worsening symptoms and poor response to the levodopa, there was little to be done but wait for his inevitable decline. In seven to 12 years, Hanley estimated, he’d need to move into assisted living.

“It was clear that conventional medicine … had little or nothing to offer me other than six-monthly reviews,” he said.

So Hanley hit the books.

1 + 2 > 3

Unwilling to resign himself to an early move-in date at the nursing home, Hanley scoured the web for strategies to combat the symptoms of PD. Two stuck out as the most effective: learning a new skill, such as playing a musical instrument or taking up knitting, and exercise.

So it only made sense to Hanley to combine them.

“I’m going to start doing exercise,” he thought to himself, “but I’m gonna do exercise that’s intense and cognitively challenging to me.”

At the time — about halfway into 2019 — Hanley was fairly sedentary. He coached a youth rugby team and took his dog for daily walks, but he was overweight and suffered from hypertension. Other than a brief stint training with one of his rugby athletes — the kid needed clients, and Hanley bought a block of sessions as a favor — Hanley rarely went to the gym. And by the time he decided to try using exercise to stave off the symptoms of PD, gyms across Northern Ireland were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So he trained in his backyard, following YouTube videos and high-intensity interval-training and boxing apps. The goal was to stimulate his mind by avoiding routine, and by early 2021, he’d seen some improvement in his PD symptoms.

“I was pretty convinced at that point that the sum of one plus two was indeed greater than three,” he said, referring to the exponential benefit of combining physical and mental intensity.

Around that time, Hanley came across an article about a 60-something-year-old man who’d improved his health through CrossFit. So when lockdown restrictions were lifted in Belfast in March 2021 to allow outdoor group training, Hanley joined CrossFit Belfast.

CrossFit Belfast: The “Holy Grail”

Scott HanleyHanley began with a series of one-on-one introductory sessions at the affiliate before joining regular classes in May of 2021, training three times per week. In addition to the challenges common to the newbie CrossFit athlete, he also faced struggles unique to PD: difficulty gripping the barbell, for instance, and keeping his balance.

That’s where excellent coaching came in.

“The level of instruction and guidance during a WOD was superb,” Hanley said.

If he couldn’t hold a barbell overhead? No problem. He’d do the workout with light dumbbells instead.

“It became really, really obvious that there was an infinite amount of ways to scale any workout,” he said.

Plus, those infinite possibilities multiplied by constantly varied workouts presented exactly the cognitive challenge Hanley was looking for. After all, routine is the enemy.

“It became pretty obvious pretty quick that this was the Holy Grail for what I wanted,” he said.

By July 2021, after just three months of CrossFit, Hanley described himself as “95% symptom free.”

No tremors. No “sticky” feet. Sleeping through the night. (The 30 lb he lost, plus the 60% reduction in blood-pressure medication, were just gravy.)

In December of 2021, Hanley had a check-in with his neurologist, who brought along two of his colleagues to witness the spectacle that was Hanley’s improvement. The specialists put Hanley through a full neurological assessment in which, among other things, Hanley demonstrated his newfound ability to bring together his left thumb and index finger quickly and repeatedly — something his neurologist had never seen him do.

“I’ll do this until my arm falls off,” Hanley told them.

“This case is hugely significant,” they said in response. “We’ve never seen anybody reverse Parkinson’s symptoms; to our knowledge, it’s never been reported in the Western world.”

The doctors are currently studying scans of Hanley’s brain to gain further insight into his miraculous 180. But Hanley doesn’t need to see the paperwork.

“It’s somewhat irrelevant,” he said. “I don’t need a scan to tell me X, Y, or Z. I have wiped all symptoms (of PD).”

“This case is hugely significant. We’ve never seen anybody reverse Parkinson’s symptoms; to our knowledge, it’s never been reported in the Western world.”

Today, Hanley remains 95% symptom free and continues to train at CrossFit Belfast three times per week alongside athletes of every age and ability.

“I love the community aspect of it,” he said.

Where once he struggled to grip a barbell, Hanley can now press, clean, and jerk with the best of them.

“I can do pretty much anything,” he said.

“Apart from I haven’t mastered double-unders,” he added.

And while Hanley’s Parkinson’s isn’t technically cured, he’s pretty sure he won’t be moving into an assisted-living facility any time soon.

“I am free of all Parkinson’s symptoms, and beyond any doubt, this is due to my joining CrossFit Belfast,” Hanley said. “It has transformed my life.”

 

Photos courtesy of Jenna Herron and Niall McHugh.

Comments on Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

27 Comments

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Kieran Smyth
August 3rd, 2022 at 10:09 am
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

Well Done Scott - its been inspiring for all of us at CFB training alongside you over last year and watching your remarkable progress.

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Connie Simonton
February 2nd, 2023 at 1:52 am

My grandma has Parkinson’s disease, she is about 75 years old it was detected 7 years ago. Right now it’s getting more difficult to live for her, because of stiff muscles she can’t even move. L-dopa and carbidopa medicines are given, but won"t give much relief. She can"t eat food and the skin is damaging forming ganglia. I thought this might be the last stage and the medications she was given did not help at all, so I started to do alot of research on natural treatments, I was introduced to Health Natural Centre in Hawaii U.S and their Parkinson’s Herbal Protocol. She started on the Parkinson’s Treatment last year, her symptoms gradually diminished including her Tremors, Body Weakness and Muscle Pains. Reach them at healthnaturalcentre.org , She is getting active again since starting this treatment, she is able to walk again ( down the street and back ) and able to ride her treadmill again! God Bless all PD Caregivers. Stay Strong, take small moments throughout the day to thank yourself, to love your self, and pray to whatever faith, star, spiritual force you believe in and ask for strength. I can personally vouch for these remedy but you would probably need to decide what works best for you.

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Connie Simonton
February 2nd, 2023 at 1:52 am

My grandma has Parkinson’s disease, she is about 75 years old it was detected 7 years ago. Right now it’s getting more difficult to live for her, because of stiff muscles she can’t even move. L-dopa and carbidopa medicines are given, but won"t give much relief. She can"t eat food and the skin is damaging forming ganglia. I thought this might be the last stage and the medications she was given did not help at all, so I started to do alot of research on natural treatments, I was introduced to Health Natural Centre in Hawaii U.S and their Parkinson’s Herbal Protocol. She started on the Parkinson’s Treatment last year, her symptoms gradually diminished including her Tremors, Body Weakness and Muscle Pains. Reach them at healthnaturalcentre.org , She is getting active again since starting this treatment, she is able to walk again ( down the street and back ) and able to ride her treadmill again! God Bless all PD Caregivers. Stay Strong, take small moments throughout the day to thank yourself, to love your self, and pray to whatever faith, star, spiritual force you believe in and ask for strength. I can personally vouch for these remedy but you would probably need to decide what works best for you.

Comment URL copied!
Connie Simonton
February 2nd, 2023 at 1:52 am

My grandma has Parkinson’s disease, she is about 75 years old it was detected 7 years ago. Right now it’s getting more difficult to live for her, because of stiff muscles she can’t even move. L-dopa and carbidopa medicines are given, but won"t give much relief. She can"t eat food and the skin is damaging forming ganglia. I thought this might be the last stage and the medications she was given did not help at all, so I started to do alot of research on natural treatments, I was introduced to Health Natural Centre in Hawaii U.S and their Parkinson’s Herbal Protocol. She started on the Parkinson’s Treatment last year, her symptoms gradually diminished including her Tremors, Body Weakness and Muscle Pains. Reach them at healthnaturalcentre.org , She is getting active again since starting this treatment, she is able to walk again ( down the street and back ) and able to ride her treadmill again! God Bless all PD Caregivers. Stay Strong, take small moments throughout the day to thank yourself, to love your self, and pray to whatever faith, star, spiritual force you believe in and ask for strength. I can personally vouch for these remedy but you would probably need to decide what works best for you.

Comment URL copied!
Connie Simonton
February 2nd, 2023 at 1:52 am

My grandma has Parkinson’s disease, she is about 75 years old it was detected 7 years ago. Right now it’s getting more difficult to live for her, because of stiff muscles she can’t even move. L-dopa and carbidopa medicines are given, but won"t give much relief. She can"t eat food and the skin is damaging forming ganglia. I thought this might be the last stage and the medications she was given did not help at all, so I started to do alot of research on natural treatments, I was introduced to Health Natural Centre in Hawaii U.S and their Parkinson’s Herbal Protocol. She started on the Parkinson’s Treatment last year, her symptoms gradually diminished including her Tremors, Body Weakness and Muscle Pains. Reach them at healthnaturalcentre.org , She is getting active again since starting this treatment, she is able to walk again ( down the street and back ) and able to ride her treadmill again! God Bless all PD Caregivers. Stay Strong, take small moments throughout the day to thank yourself, to love your self, and pray to whatever faith, star, spiritual force you believe in and ask for strength. I can personally vouch for these remedy but you would probably need to decide what works best for you.

Comment URL copied!
Connie Simonton
February 2nd, 2023 at 1:52 am

My grandma has Parkinson’s disease, she is about 75 years old it was detected 7 years ago. Right now it’s getting more difficult to live for her, because of stiff muscles she can’t even move. L-dopa and carbidopa medicines are given, but won"t give much relief. She can"t eat food and the skin is damaging forming ganglia. I thought this might be the last stage and the medications she was given did not help at all, so I started to do alot of research on natural treatments, I was introduced to Health Natural Centre in Hawaii U.S and their Parkinson’s Herbal Protocol. She started on the Parkinson’s Treatment last year, her symptoms gradually diminished including her Tremors, Body Weakness and Muscle Pains. Reach them at healthnaturalcentre.org , She is getting active again since starting this treatment, she is able to walk again ( down the street and back ) and able to ride her treadmill again! God Bless all PD Caregivers. Stay Strong, take small moments throughout the day to thank yourself, to love your self, and pray to whatever faith, star, spiritual force you believe in and ask for strength. I can personally vouch for these remedy but you would probably need to decide what works best for you.

Comment URL copied!
Connie Simonton
February 2nd, 2023 at 1:52 am

My grandma has Parkinson’s disease, she is about 75 years old it was detected 7 years ago. Right now it’s getting more difficult to live for her, because of stiff muscles she can’t even move. L-dopa and carbidopa medicines are given, but won"t give much relief. She can"t eat food and the skin is damaging forming ganglia. I thought this might be the last stage and the medications she was given did not help at all, so I started to do alot of research on natural treatments, I was introduced to Health Natural Centre in Hawaii U.S and their Parkinson’s Herbal Protocol. She started on the Parkinson’s Treatment last year, her symptoms gradually diminished including her Tremors, Body Weakness and Muscle Pains. Reach them at healthnaturalcentre.org , She is getting active again since starting this treatment, she is able to walk again ( down the street and back ) and able to ride her treadmill again! God Bless all PD Caregivers. Stay Strong, take small moments throughout the day to thank yourself, to love your self, and pray to whatever faith, star, spiritual force you believe in and ask for strength. I can personally vouch for these remedy but you would probably need to decide what works best for you.

Comment URL copied!
Connie Simonton
February 2nd, 2023 at 1:52 am

My grandma has Parkinson’s disease, she is about 75 years old it was detected 7 years ago. Right now it’s getting more difficult to live for her, because of stiff muscles she can’t even move. L-dopa and carbidopa medicines are given, but won"t give much relief. She can"t eat food and the skin is damaging forming ganglia. I thought this might be the last stage and the medications she was given did not help at all, so I started to do alot of research on natural treatments, I was introduced to Health Natural Centre in Hawaii U.S and their Parkinson’s Herbal Protocol. She started on the Parkinson’s Treatment last year, her symptoms gradually diminished including her Tremors, Body Weakness and Muscle Pains. Reach them at healthnaturalcentre.org , She is getting active again since starting this treatment, she is able to walk again ( down the street and back ) and able to ride her treadmill again! God Bless all PD Caregivers. Stay Strong, take small moments throughout the day to thank yourself, to love your self, and pray to whatever faith, star, spiritual force you believe in and ask for strength. I can personally vouch for these remedy but you would probably need to decide what works best for you.

Comment URL copied!
Connie Simonton
February 2nd, 2023 at 1:52 am

My grandma has Parkinson’s disease, she is about 75 years old it was detected 7 years ago. Right now it’s getting more difficult to live for her, because of stiff muscles she can’t even move. L-dopa and carbidopa medicines are given, but won"t give much relief. She can"t eat food and the skin is damaging forming ganglia. I thought this might be the last stage and the medications she was given did not help at all, so I started to do alot of research on natural treatments, I was introduced to Health Natural Centre in Hawaii U.S and their Parkinson’s Herbal Protocol. She started on the Parkinson’s Treatment last year, her symptoms gradually diminished including her Tremors, Body Weakness and Muscle Pains. Reach them at healthnaturalcentre.org , She is getting active again since starting this treatment, she is able to walk again ( down the street and back ) and able to ride her treadmill again! God Bless all PD Caregivers. Stay Strong, take small moments throughout the day to thank yourself, to love your self, and pray to whatever faith, star, spiritual force you believe in and ask for strength. I can personally vouch for these remedy but you would probably need to decide what works best for you.

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Judy ODonnell
July 31st, 2022 at 4:22 pm
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

Amazing! The holy grail, the fountain of youth. It works! ...and double unders?? elusive.

Keep moving!

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Dr Ado Death spell
July 23rd, 2022 at 11:15 am
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

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Matthew Sherburne
July 17th, 2022 at 12:00 am
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

This is the kind of content I come to CrossFit for. Keep it up, team.

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Rina Jimenez
July 12th, 2022 at 7:56 pm
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

We need more people like you. Who decided to try….just to see amazing changes and an incredible new way of life. Wishing you the best. Amazing story.

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Sam O'Connor
July 12th, 2022 at 5:09 pm
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

That’s a very moving account. Hats off to him, and CrossFit Belfast

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Elizabeth Flood
July 12th, 2022 at 3:46 pm
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

I lost my dad to Parkinson’s in 2013, he was diagnosed in 1997. I wish CrossFit had been around then and we could have done it together. I cried like a baby reading this

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Craig Kaminsky
July 12th, 2022 at 3:14 pm
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

Teared up a little reading this. Incredibly inspiring and uplifting. It's the ultimate example of what is so amazing about the CrossFit world.

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Doug Bobbitt
July 12th, 2022 at 8:49 am
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

Awesome story to read. So impressed with your determination, commitment and using CrossFit has your means to get back your quality of life that we all take for granted! Reading your story just made my day and it is only 5:30am!

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Andrea Gambardella
July 12th, 2022 at 5:54 am
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

Congratulations to Scott and congrats to the Coach who tailors wods for him! 👏

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Patricia Rossi
July 12th, 2022 at 4:04 am
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

Well done Scott, so nice to read your story!

wonderful to see that there’s hope!

Wishing you all the very best!!🙌🏼

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Kelvin Wood
July 12th, 2022 at 1:48 am
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

fantastic work Scott

But your not alone

Ive had Parkinson’s for about 7 years

I stopped taking any medication

I don’t see any specialist,he was to negative

My theory is to mentally challenge yourself and always be positive

Then the brain forgets the Parkinson’s

I still have limitations but get me smashing out a workout

And it all disappears

It puts a smile on my face hearing your story 😊

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Christopher Puetz
July 12th, 2022 at 1:25 am
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

I love reading this. My father has had PD for 15 years, the medications come with just as many side effects as the disease. Movement is medicine. This is truly inspiring.

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Kalman Dee
July 12th, 2022 at 1:03 am
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail

I love the “exercise that’s intense and cognitively challenging” phrase, which is so true of Crossfit.

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Charles Meyers
July 12th, 2022 at 1:03 am
Commented on: Parkinson’s Disease — and the Holy Grail


(edited)
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Catherine Roberta
December 4th, 2022 at 10:47 am

I was diagnosed 2011. i was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. My symptoms progressed quickly. Soon i was having difficulty breathing, swallowing and even walking short distances. With the help of Health Herbs Clinic natural herbs I have been able to reverse my symptoms using diet, herbs, which i feel has made the most difference. The Parkinson’s natural formula immensely helped my condition, it reversed my Parkinson’s. my slurred speech, then the tremors, and mobility gradually disappeared, even my handwriting is getting better visit healthherbsclinic  people are suffering from this horrible disease due to lack of information. 

Comment URL copied!
Catherine Roberta
December 4th, 2022 at 10:47 am

I was diagnosed 2011. i was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. My symptoms progressed quickly. Soon i was having difficulty breathing, swallowing and even walking short distances. With the help of Health Herbs Clinic natural herbs I have been able to reverse my symptoms using diet, herbs, which i feel has made the most difference. The Parkinson’s natural formula immensely helped my condition, it reversed my Parkinson’s. my slurred speech, then the tremors, and mobility gradually disappeared, even my handwriting is getting better visit healthherbsclinic  people are suffering from this horrible disease due to lack of information. 

Comment URL copied!
Catherine Roberta
December 4th, 2022 at 10:47 am

I was diagnosed 2011. i was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. My symptoms progressed quickly. Soon i was having difficulty breathing, swallowing and even walking short distances. With the help of Health Herbs Clinic natural herbs I have been able to reverse my symptoms using diet, herbs, which i feel has made the most difference. The Parkinson’s natural formula immensely helped my condition, it reversed my Parkinson’s. my slurred speech, then the tremors, and mobility gradually disappeared, even my handwriting is getting better visit healthherbsclinic  people are suffering from this horrible disease due to lack of information. 

Comment URL copied!
Catherine Roberta
December 4th, 2022 at 10:47 am

I was diagnosed 2011. i was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. My symptoms progressed quickly. Soon i was having difficulty breathing, swallowing and even walking short distances. With the help of Health Herbs Clinic natural herbs I have been able to reverse my symptoms using diet, herbs, which i feel has made the most difference. The Parkinson’s natural formula immensely helped my condition, it reversed my Parkinson’s. my slurred speech, then the tremors, and mobility gradually disappeared, even my handwriting is getting better visit healthherbsclinic  people are suffering from this horrible disease due to lack of information. 

Comment URL copied!