Lakewood Health System finds “Big” movements help those with Parkinson’s

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

The physical therapy department at Lakewood Health System in Staples has implemented specific movements geared to help those with Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Becky Smith said while physical therapy has always been part of a Parkinson’s patient’s regimen, about five years ago therapists learned that bigger movements were more beneficial.

The Lee Silverman Voice Training (LSVT) therapy has patients use louder amplitude for speech rehabilitation versus softer speech for better results. That same premise was transferred to physical therapy to assist those with Parkinson’s.

Doctor of physical therapy Becky Smith,  the January 2013 Employee of the Month by the Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce. Hanson is employed at the Little Falls Hardware Hank.
Doctor of physical therapy Becky Smith, shows one of the exercises she has her patients with Parkinson’s disease do to improve their movements.

It’s called “Big” therapy. It uses sensory-based movements to help improve mobility and balance. The high-effort exercises have been shown to impact other disorders associated with Parkinson’s.

“Parkinson’s is a movement disorder due to the degeneration of the basal ganglia, a portion of the brain which regulates and fine-tunes movement,” said Smith.

Smith and her co-worker, Alissa Granholm, attended training to become LSVT Big certified practitioners.

“There are seven specific exercises with Big,” said Smith. “Two are done in a sitting position and five standing. The movements incorporate the entire body.”

Smith said the goal is to stress the nervous system, giving it an overload of input.

“Parkinson’s is a sensory-based disease and if patients cannot feel their movements the brain is unable to moderate it,” said Smith.

Smith said that those with Parkinson’s may walk with a rounded posture and shuffling feet, but they think they are standing tall because their brain is telling them they are.

The Big movements help exercise the brain; it helps the basal ganglia remember the movements.

The Big movements include reaching forward, upward and backward. The therapy includes lunges, side-to-side stepping; large arm movements; stepping and reaching; rocking and twisting; and sitting and standing.

“All these help improve both rigid muscles and the spinal area,” said Smith. “It’s a rigorous program and the patient needs to buy into it, committing to the exercises. The patient comes to therapy four times a week for an hour each, then is expected to do a daily set of exercises at home, too. After four weeks, they will continue with the exercises two times daily at home.” The program began in January at Lakewood Health Systems. The department’s first patient was video taped during the second and fourth week of his therapy. Smith said the improvement was visibly noticeable

“The patient’s family was so happy to have him back, walking better and standing tall. It was a success,” said Smith.

Smith received her four-year bachelor of arts degree in biology with an emphasis in health sciences from Minnesota State University in Moorhead. She received her doctorate in physical therapy from St. Catherine’s University in Minneapolis.

For more information about LSVT Big therapy for Parkinson’s patients, contact Lakewood Health Systems at (218) 894-1515 or 1 (800) 525-1033.