Nearly one million people in the United States live with Parkinson’s Disease, and about 60,000 are diagnosed with the disease each year. A diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease can seem devastating because there is no cure and the symptoms get progressively worse over time.
If you or a loved one is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease or some other neurological disorder with similar symptoms, physical therapists at Amberwell Atchison offer hope through the Parkinson’s therapy program LSVT BIG®. Through this program, patients with Parkinson’s can gain more independence and confidence to do the things they love to do and improve their overall quality of life.
What is LSVT BIG?
LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment) was first developed in 1987 by Dr. Lorraine Ramig as a voice treatment called LSVT LOUD. Dr. Ramig’s goal was to help improve the speech of her patient Lee Silverman, who had Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s Disease can cause people to speak softly with mumbled, monotone speech, making it difficult to understand them. LSVT LOUD trains people with PD to become comfortable with speaking louder so that they sound as if they’re speaking at an appropriate level of loudness to everyone else.
LSVT BIG was designed with the same concepts in mind. Parkinson’s Disease can cause people to struggle with hypokinesia (small movements) and bradykinesia (slow movements), poor posture, shuffling steps while walking, balance issues, and freezing up while walking. This research-based approach to exercise focuses specifically on “bigness” in everyday gestures and body movements and results in overall improved gait stability, trunk rotation, posture, balance, faster walking with bigger steps, and fewer falls. The treatment trains the patient to recognize the amount of effort they need to use to produce normal-sized movements.
LSVT BIG is a comprehensive and complex standardized treatment protocol involving the repetition of movements that mirror those used in daily living. The research-based exercise program is designed to help the patient form strategies to override the motor and non-motor effects of Parkinson’s Disease using principles of neuroplasticity and motor learning.
Because the program is highly intensive, it works best for patients who are committed to doing the work and have supportive family members who will help them complete their daily homework practice and reinforce the techniques in their everyday lives.
LSVT BIG sessions can only be taught by therapists who are LSVT BIG certified. The program consists of a minimum of 16 sessions delivered over 4 consecutive weeks and 4 consecutive days per week. At Amberwell Atchison, sessions are offered Monday through Thursday. Each session is an hour long. You will also be assigned daily homework practice and carryover exercises to reinforce what you learn during your sessions and retrain your brain to think big.
The first part of each session consists of seven exercises that every patient in the program practices during each of their sessions. The intensity of these exercises is based on the severity of the patient’s condition. The intensity increases as the patient shows progress.
The second part of the session focuses on functional components that the patient may struggle with such as going from sitting to standing or walking through doorways.
The last part of the session focuses on a complex, multi-step task that the patient has identified as a problem area such as shopping or going to the movies.
Each patient follows an individualized plan based on their own personalized health needs and goals.
When Is the Best Time to Learn LSVT BIG?
It’s best to go through the LSVT BIG treatment as soon as possible following your diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease or as soon as you notice a decline in your neurological functions. If you learn the program before the symptoms of Parkinson’s set in, you’ll be able to effectively use the program as a tool to help you keep moving and stay active in your life for as long as possible.