LSVT Big Therapy is a type of treatment for people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). The therapy “trains the brain” in new ways to move while going about daily life. Because people living with PD often struggle with both large and small motor skills, therapy helps them learn intentional strategies to make their movements appear more like movements made by others around them.
This rehabilitation method is suitable for other neurological disorders, such as stroke and speech disorders. However, in this article, we will cover the basics of LSVT Big, and how it helps people with Parkinson’s stay more functional and independent longer. We will also discuss what therapy improves and the types of treatments one might expect.
Before we discuss LSVT Big Therapy, here is more information about PD.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation report, PD is a progressive nervous system disease that usually affects middle-aged and elderly people more than children and young adults. Only 4% of people diagnosed with the disease are diagnosed before age 50. The condition is more prevalent in men than in women.
Foundation research says that almost one million people living in the United States are living with PD. They expect the number of people diagnosed with this neurological disorder will climb to 1.2 million within the next decade (2030).
Early symptoms of PD may include:
- Dizziness or fainting
- Loss of smell
- Changes in handwriting
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Facial expressions that contradict your mood
People with PD move in slow motion. They take smaller steps and move slowly, but are unaware they are not moving about like everyone else. Both small and large motor skill output decline. And, as time passes, they become less and less aware of their declining movement patterns.
As the disease progresses, dopamine declines, causing a variety of systems, including uncontrollable tremors, muscular rigidity, and loss of fine motor skills. People suffering with advanced PD often develop dementia and may require 24-hour care in a medically supervised environment.
What is LSVT Big Therapy?
LSVT Big Therapy is an intensive treatment method for people with Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions that limit mobility and the ability to complete self-care activities such as bathing, feeding oneself, and getting dressed.
What LSVT BIG Therapy Improves
Treatments may include physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. Depending on a client’s unique needs and challenges, therapists may focus on only one area or utilize all three treatment methods.
People engaged in various modalities (treatment plans) see improvement in mobility, self awareness, pain management, overall health and wellness, and work performance.
How is LSVT BIG Therapy Tailored to an Individual’s Parkinson’s Disease Journey?
Customized therapy plans typically involve a series of 16 sessions provided four days per week for four weeks. Each in-clinic session lasts one hour. Clients are assigned daily exercises and homework to reinforce the training sessions.
At the end of the four-week period, clients have developed lifelong habits designed to improve their daily life and slow the progression of PD.
While the program format and length is essentially the same for each client, individual sessions address specific challenges depending on the stage of disease one is living with. For some, that may include an increased focus on upper extremities – pointing, range of motion, impaired dexterity, and sensory perception of proprioceptive information. The latter applies to how a person with PD perceives their position based on messages sent and received throughout the body receptors in muscles, joints, the inner ear, and other tissues.
For other people with PD, therapy may focus on improving small motor skills, such as writing, doing puzzles, or working with small parts.
Does LSVT Big Really Work?
A 2012 National Institute of Health study found that after four weeks of LSVT Big therapy, participants had improved proprioceptive performance. They further found an additional month (four weeks) of clinical therapy improved performance significantly more. And, the researchers noted that based on participant questionnaires, quality of life improved.
The aforementioned study also explored the potential for delivering LSVT Loud (designed for speech deficit training and LSVT Big via teletherapy, sometimes called virtual physical therapy. Remote therapy has proven to be effective for helping people with PD recalibrate their sensorimotor thought processes to improve function.
Here are examples of what individual plans may address.
Speech Therapy: Targets and improves voice control
Parkinson’s may affect the tone and volume of a person’s voice, as well as, their ability to speak clearly and indistinctly enough to be understood by others. Speech therapy can help a person speak louder and articulate more clearly.
Physical Therapy: Targets muscle and movement challenges and improves mobility
Moving around is exhausting for many people who have PD. Therapy strengthens core muscles, which helps people avoid inactivity and improves their quality of life.
Other benefits include:
- Being able to take bigger steps, which leads to an ability to walk faster
- Improves balance, which builds confidence
- Enhances one’s ability to perform daily living activities independently
- Increases trunk rotation, which makes twisting and turning motions easier*
*Trunk rotation is the movement one needs to maintain balance and stability as you turn and bend to pick something up off the floor, or reach behind you for a book on a table. PT addresses weakness in the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae and supporting muscles. The thorax region is sometimes called the chest, and includes skin, breasts, and internal organs related to circulation and respiratory function.
Occupational Therapy (OT): Addresses limitations and/or pain in the upper extremities
OT and Hand Therapy therapists help people with PD gain better function of their arms and hands. Sessions train people how to feed themselves and how to maintain strength and flexibility as a preventative strategy. When necessary, people may also receive pain management counseling and support.
LSVT Big Therapy has the potential to positively transform the lives of people with PD. Learn more about Rock Port Valley Physical Therapy services today.