What is Levodopa? Can it help with stroke rehab?
Levodopa, or L-Dopa, is the precursor of the chemical dopamine. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter in the brain, which has many functions, including some control of movement. In fact, the inadequate production of dopamine is thought to cause the movement difficulties in people with Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, administration of L-Dopa is a fairly common and effective treatment for improving the movement of Parkinson’s patients.
Below I’ve listed several studies that have investigated the use of L-dopa to enhance stroke recovery. It seems promising! And L-dopa is available in many forms, some of which are fairly easy to obtain. (Such as herbal sources like Mucuna Pruriens, also known as the velvet bean.) But there are possible side effects of L-Dopa, so don’t order a year’s supply of velvet bean just yet! Ask your doctor about this potential treatment!
Does It Work?
In 2001, Lancet published a study that compared 3 weeks of treatment with Levodopa to a placebo group. They found that “levodopa is well tolerated and, when given in combination with physiotherapy, enhances motor recovery in patients with hemiplegia. In view of its minimal side-effects, levodopa will be a possible add- on during stroke rehabilitation.”
In 2008, The Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation published a small German study that analyzed the effects of 3 doses of L-dopa prior to one session of physical therapy vs physical therapy alone. Their results showed a significant improvement in what they called “procedural motor learning” of the involved hand (improved reaction time and performance of new movements and tasks with the hand).
The Journal of Neurological Science published a study in 2009 which compared 20 patients receiving L-dopa and speech therapy to 19 patients receiving a placebo and speech therapy. The group receiving L-dopa “experienced greater language improvement in verbal fluency and repetition, compared to the placebo group.”
Here’s an interesting blog about written by somebody with personal experience with the use of L-dopa for stroke recovery: