Moving around and speaking to others may seem like simple tasks, but if you live with Parkinson’s disease, you don’t take either of those things for granted. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly one million people in the U.S. are living with the disease, and approximately 60,000 Americans will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s this year.
What is Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s disease affects a specific area of your brain. It is a neurological condition that not only causes tremors but can also cause changes in gait and fine motor skills. The muscles in the face, mouth, and throat that are used in speaking and swallowing can also be affected, as well as your sensory system. It can distort your perception of movement and your voice to the point you may think you’re making large movements, or shouting, when actually you’re moving very little and whispering. Through specialized rehabilitation therapy and voice training, therapists can help retrain your brain to “go big” and “get loud.”
This type of therapy began more than 25 years ago when the treatment program Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) Loud was discovered. In 2005, Loud treatment was expanded to include a big approach to physical and occupational therapy for Parkinson’s — called LSVT BIG. Together, speech pathologists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists work with patients to think big, talk big, and walk big.
During LSVT BIG therapy, physical and occupational therapists use exercise to teach you exaggerated movement patterns. This therapy helps retrain your brain to think big when walking or moving. By training your brain to think differently, you can improve trunk rotation, balance, and walking. Therapists will also personalize the training to make sure they help you improve movement for activities you love. Whether you want to be better at climbing stairs or getting in and out of a car, this therapy can help improve your quality of life.
LSVT BIG focuses on helping you achieve bigger and faster movements to restore normal movement patterns and improve gait speed. Many patients find this treatment life-changing. LSVT BIG treatment consists of 16 sessions — four consecutive days per week for four weeks.
Individual one-hour sessions
LSVT BIG treatment:
Trains a single target of amplitude (bigger movements)
Drives intensive and high-effort practice
Teaches the amount of effort required to produce normal movements
Translates bigger movements into real-world, everyday activities
Empowers people with Parkinson’s disease with their potential to improve
Similar to how Parkinson’s can challenge your perception of how you move, it can also affect how you speak and swallow. LSVT LOUD uses one-on-one treatment with a speech pathologist to teach you how to speak louder and more clearly. This enhances your interactions with family, at work or social settings. The therapy also can improve swallowing and facial expressions, which are often difficult for people with Parkinson’s disease. Before participating in LSVT LOUD, a patient needs to be evaluated by an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist to ensure the vocal folds and cords can withstand the intense training and to make sure there is no other existing pathology.
LSVT LOUD treatment
LSVT LOUD treatment consists of one-month of intense treatment for one-hour per day, four days per week, totaling 16 different treatment sessions.
Increasing vocal intensity
Increasing breath support
Increasing pitch range
Improving vocal quality
Studies have proven patients with Parkinson’s disease at any stage can benefit from intensive rehabilitation. LSVT BIG and LOUD therapy is especially effective soon after the disease is diagnosed.
Joy Proctor, DPT, is a physical therapist certified to offer LSVT® BIG and LOUD by LSVT® Global. The Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) BIG and LOUD therapies are available at UPMC Williamsport. Ask your primary care doctor or neurologist for a referral or call 570-321-2605.