Hi everyone! I wanted to talk to you about a topic today that is near to my heart: Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Though I have not had any loved ones diagnosed specifically with PD, in his late years, my grandfather showed symptoms of parkinsonian syndrome. With the parkinsonian syndrome alone, his life was completely affected and he wasn’t the same person we used to know him as. He walked slowly with small and shuffling steps, his balance was all over the place, he mumbled and his voice became softer, and his facial expressions were masked. It was hard watching him struggle and his condition took a major toll on my grandmother who acted as his caregiver. With my interest in neurological patients, it pained me to see doctors continuously putting him on different medications that didn’t seem to help. Though they kept him calmer, they interfered with his ability to fully LIVE, not just survive. Don’t get me wrong, medication definitely has its place in PD management, but I don’t think it should be the only treatment provided to patients.
After watching his battle, I was even more determined to help others in similar situations, which brings me to something called LSVT. LSVT stands for the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment and was named after a patient who battled with PD herself. It is a program for the treatment of Parkinson’s patients, which started as purely a speech therapy option. Nowadays, it has transitioned to both PT/OT and speech therapy to allow Parkinson’s patients to work on all facets of their lives. LSVT is designed around the idea that exercise can improve brain functioning (neuroplasticity) and slow disease progression. How cool is that?! The basic principles of neuroplasticity rely on some principles: intensity, complexity, repetition, salience, timing, and specificity of exercise all matter to drive maximum results. Therefore, the LSVT programs are obviously designed to focus around these principles. LSVT exercises are administered in a way that challenges the impaired system associated with PD and targets the specific deficits of the disease: slow/small movement and decreased awareness of how the body is moving.
The PT/OT version of LSVT is called LSVT-Big because it works to get patients to move with bigger amplitude, intense and higher effort, and to be able to internally recognize what proper movement looks like. LSVT-Big can literally be life-changing. If you look up videos on youtube of “before” and “after” treatment, it is amazing to see the progress people make throughout treatment. Patients can expect to improve their walking and speed, balance, mobility, and overall quality of life! The program does take some commitment as it requires patients to be seen for 4 weeks consecutively, 4 times a week, for 1 hour of individual attention. However, like I said, the results can make a major difference in someone’s life and these results can last up to 2 years after initial treatment per research findings. After that time, patients will have to come in for “tune ups” to get back up to speed with everything.
LSVT-Big and LSVT-Loud (the speech therapy side) are currently provided by certified clinicians all over the world. If you are in the area, I would love to be your contact and help you learn more about this program! If you are too far from our office though, there are plenty of other awesome clinicians that would be able to help you as well! Visit www.lsvtglobal.com to read more about this program and locate a clinician close to your home. Thanks for reading! 😊
Dr. Kristin Spear, PT, DPT
Hohman Rehab and Sports Therapy