I knew I wanted to become certified in LSVT BIG before even finishing my master’s degree in physical therapy. I knew I wanted the opportunity to improve the quality of life for individuals with Parkinson Disease (PD). PD is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects an individual’s movement, vital function, mood, thinking, and, therefore, it affects their entire life. PD is not fun, so what struck me about LSVT BIG is that it is a mode of therapy that is full joy and hope, and most of all it works.
LSVT stands for Lee Silverman Voice Therapy. Lee Silverman was a woman with PD who worked with her family, voice therapists and researchers to develop a program designed to help her speak louder. They called their program LSVT LOUD. They found that by having patients practice speaking louder in therapy they also spoke louder in their daily lives. This same approach was then researched and developed for movement, becoming LSVT BIG. The idea is that patients with PD have smaller and slower movements than the general population. In practicing making larger movements and practicing the same functional movements, they are able to use their bodies to retrain their brains and normalize their movement patterns. And what’s more, research shows that exercise helps the brain function. It helps the dopamine that PD Patients have a shortage of work better in their systems, and it makes PD medicine work better and longer. With PD exercise if medicine!
I have worked with many PD patients since my LSVT BIG certification in 2013. And I have loved sharing this experience with them. I often describe LSVT BIG as PD boot camp. It is a 4 week long program where the patient and certified therapist work together one on one, 4 times a week for an hour. Something else I love about the program is that it is challenging. Research shows your brain works best when it is challenged and when you are working at a high intensity. Every LSVT BIG session starts with daily exercises that encourage balance, strength, range of motion and most of all moving BIG. Every session also addresses walking and doing other daily activities using BIG strategies, and on working towards a hierarchy goal. The hierarchy goal is a bigger goal, something the patient had stopped believing they could do. With LSVT BIG I have helped patients who felt they had to give up on their favorite activities do incredible things like run a 5k, return to fishing, get on and off a horse and go camping with their grandchildren.
The progress toward understanding PD and the medical interventions to treat it are improving all the time, but as of now there is no cure. However, with the combination of medicine and exercise programs like LSVT BIG people with PD are able to greatly improve their quality of life. They are able to find the joy of surprising themselves by meeting new goals and realizing new dreams. I am just honored to be part of the process.
Megan Griffin DPT
LSVT BIG Certified Therapist