BRIDGEWATER, Pa. (AP) — Parkinson's robs people of the ability to control their movements, but some patients in Beaver County are seeing big results from a physical therapy program designed to counteract the symptoms of the degenerative disease.
While there is no cure for Parkinson's disease and little is known about the cause, experts know that people with the nervous system disorder have trouble with slowness of movement, and their movements are also small, said Dale Reckless, facility director of M-R-S Physical Therapy in Bridgewater.
But the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment Big (LSVT Big) therapy program, which Reckless brought to M-R-S and Beaver County earlier this year, is aimed at keeping people's movements big and quick in order to counteract those symptoms.
People with Parkinson's experience an internal queuing problem, so even if they are taking shuffling steps, their brains believe they are walking at a regular pace, Reckless explained.
The idea behind LSVT Big, he said, is to overcompensate with big, bold exercises and essentially retrain the brain to get a person's movements back to normal.
"We're helping the patients to think big but in the real sense they're actually coming out to making normal movements," Reckless said.
People with Parkinson's also often experience tremors, stiffness and rigidity, and posture and balance issues, Reckless said, in addition to speech problems, which a related program, LSVT Loud, was designed for.
There are other treatments for Parkinson's including medications, but research has shown that exercise as well as physical and occupational therapies, including LSVT Big, can help improve mobility in some patients.
Reckless worked at HealthSouth Harmarville Rehabilitation Hospital for more than two decades before joining M-R-S in April, and he said he is now the only physical therapist certified to offer LSVT Big in the county.
"I was pretty excited to come out here because I knew that it was an under-served population," Reckless said.
According to the National Parkinson Foundation, about 8,000 to 10,000 people in western Pennsylvania are living with a Parkinson's diagnosis. Major celebrities who have been diagnosed with Parkinson's, such as Michael J. Fox and the late Robin Williams, have helped bring attention to the impact of the disease.
"It's not a small issue, it's a pretty big issue," Reckless said.
Since he became certified two years ago, Reckless said he has yet to see a patient who doesn't benefit in some way from the LSVT Big program.
George Rowse, 88, of Monaca was diagnosed with Parkinson's in February and was referred by his neurologist to see Reckless for LSVT Big therapy. Since starting the 16-week program, Rowse said the biggest changes he's noticed have been in his balance and control.
Before LSVT, Rowse was falling at least a couple times a week. "You lose that balance and you're done," he said. But as of early August, he had not fallen in at least three weeks.
Rowse said he was discouraged and almost quit LSVT early on, but he's thankful he listened to his doctor and stuck with it. After completing the program at M-R-S, he'll continue the exercises on his own at home.
During a session, Rowse mirrors the exercises that Reckless demonstrates. Reach all the way to the floor from a seated position. Reach one hand out to the side, sweep it down the floor and across the body, and hold. "Finish big," Reckless instructed.
"I'm starting to learn what to do," Rowse said. "I'm starting to learn to control things."
Information from: Beaver County Times, http://www.timesonline.com/