Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements, such as shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination. Symptoms usually begin gradually and worsen over time. As the disease progresses, people may have difficulty walking and talking. They may also have mental and behavioral changes, sleep problems, depression, memory difficulties, and fatigue.
Patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and experiencing interference with their day-to-day movements may greatly benefit from Lee Silverman Voice Therapy – Big, also known as LSVT–Big, said Amanda Martins, a physical therapist at Baystate Wing Hospital. LSVT–Big is a nationally recognized rehabilitation-therapy program that has helped people with Parkinson’s disease improve upon the disease’s impact on their walking, balance, and other activities of daily living, such as writing and dressing.
“People living with Parkinson’s disease or other neurological conditions often move differently, with gestures and actions that become smaller and slower,” Martins said, noting that patients facing neurological illnesses have always been an area of interest for her and the physical therapy team at the hospital.
LSVT has two branches: ‘big’ and ‘loud.’ The treatment protocol is designed for individuals with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions.
“It is designed to involve large and exaggerated movement patterns to move better, increase confidence, and improve safety.”
“Because LSVT–Big treatment is customized to each person’s specific needs and goals, it can help regardless of the stage or severity of your condition,” Martins said. “The treatment is unique and customized to each patient’s goals, targeting gross and fine motor skills.”
These skills include walking, balance, and other activities of daily living, such as writing, getting dressed, and other job-related tasks, she added.
Although the LSVT–Big program was designed for individuals with Parkinson’s disease, it has been shown to be beneficial in the rehabilitation of individuals with other neuromuscular disorders, such as stroke, normal-pressure hydrocephalus, brain injury, and multiple sclerosis.
“The program consists of 16 sessions, four days a week for four weeks, and our patients are given daily homework and carry-over homework,” Martins explained. “It is designed to involve large and exaggerated movement patterns to move better, increase confidence, and improve safety.”
Martins received a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Westfield State University and earned her doctorate in physical therapy from American International College in Springfield. She sees an array of patients of all ages and abilities, and expresses a passion for sports and stroke rehabilitation, as well as amputee and prosthetic rehabilitation. A former soccer player, she understands the physical, emotional, and rehabilitative aspects of getting the patient back to the highest quality of life — and an athlete back in the game or on the field.
“I have worked with patients who have had strokes, spinal-cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s. I have personally found working with this population to be gratifying. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to shadow the LSVT program and saw its positive results that I decided to take it upon myself to get certified in this special treatment.”