Rocking to Improve Cerebral Blood Flow: The Mechanism

Wednesday, 9 July 2008
Carolyn S. Pierce, DSN, RN , Decker School of Nursing & Department of Bioengineering, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY

Learning Objective 1: describe how rocking in a rocking chair can improve cerebral blood flow

Learning Objective 2: descrive the natural evolution of blood pressure in persons with Alzheimer's disease

Approximately 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, one type of dementia, and this number has doubled since 1980. The number of Americans with Alzheimer's disease can be expected to continue to climb and by 2050 the number of individuals with Alzheimer's could quadruple. Studies have shown that the blood pressure of persons who develop symptoms of dementia drops about 2 years prior to the development of symptoms. As dementia progresses this drop in blood pressure continues to be evidenced. Research using rocking chair therapy in patients diagnosed with dementia has been useful in increasing psychological well-being and balance, significantly improving anxiety and depression, and decreasing the need for pain medications. An explanation for this improvement might be that rocking engages the calf muscle pump to return blood and lymphatic fluid to the central circulation thus improving low blood pressure and cerebral blood flow. This study was undertaken to test the effect of rocking on blood pressure of healthy older persons. Beat-to-beat blood pressure and heart rate monitoring was performed as the subjects sat quietly for 30 minutes and then rocked for 30 minutes. The findings of this research will be presented and serve as the basis for further research into cognitive function in persons with early symptoms of dementia.