New Parkinson's Treatment Benefits the Palouse

Mar 11, 2014

The only therapy program specifically designed to empower those with Parkinson's disease to move and speak better is now available at Pullman Regional Hospital's Summit Therapy & Health Services.

Declining vocal strength, muffled speech and difficulty swallowing create problems with communication and eating for those living with Parkinson's disease. Patients also often experience tremors, slow movement, impaired balance and stiffness. The Lee Silverman Voice Therapy (LSVT) BIG and LOUD programs are nationally recognized as efficacious therapies and allow patients with Parkinson's disease to regain control of their lives.

LSVT BIG serves as the physical aspect of the treatment, helping patients increase the size of their movements and decrease the chance of falls. LSVT LOUD serves as the vocal aspect of the treatment that helps patients to better articulate their speech at a louder volume.

Research into the LSVT BIG and LOUD treatment programs has shown slowing of progression, lengthened independence, and decreased number of falls.

Six providers are certified in the LSVT treatment program at Pullman Regional Hospital, including Tim Williams, a physical therapist and Keri Jones, a speech language pathologist, both with Summit Therapy & Health Services. 

 "This is the only treatment program with a standardized approach that is heavily research-based," said Jones. "It is very well-established, and has proven to be quite successful."

Typical therapy sessions for the LSVT BIG program are one-hour long and begin with maximal daily exercises. These are large movements that are common in daily tasks. Following these exercises, patients work with their physical therapists to identify and address specific issues unique to the patient. These could include cooking a meal or cleaning.

"No matter what stage of Parkinson's Disease the patient is in, I am looking to improve their quality of life and independence," said Williams.

Typical therapy sessions for the LSVT LOUD program are more tailored to an individual's difficulties, needs, and goals. Length of therapy is typically sixteen sessions in a single month. The treatment trains the patient to self-generate a greater amount of loudness or volume to be better understood. This process involves sensory awareness training and stimulating the voice box (larynx) through a series of vocal lessons.

"Patients who have participated in this program report talking more, being better understood, and feeling more engaged with others in day-to-day conversations," said Jones.

Following LSVT BIG and LOUD treatment, patients report significantly fewer falls and more confidence speaking in social situations. Williams said patients in the later stages of Parkinson's disease can make tremendous gains in the completion of daily tasks like feeding themselves. Patients in the earlier stages can have the freedom and mobility to do the activities they enjoy.

Following the intensive LSVT BIG and LOUD treatments, patients can expect to maintain results so long as they continue their daily exercises as instructed by their therapists.

Pullman resident Connie Finch said of the program, "I don't have to hide from people because I'm not embarrassed anymore. The program is amazing. It lifts your spirits."

If patients are already diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and currently have a neurologist coordinating their medications, they simply need to call and ask for a prescription for therapy. Therapy sessions are covered by most insurance. Sessions are held in private at Summit Therapy facilities in Pullman within a comfortable office setting. Patients are welcome to bring a companion to the sessions for support.

Currently, Summit Therapy & Health Services is the only clinic offering an all-inclusive program that offers the skills of physical therapy and occupational therapy for the LSVT BIG program, as well as the LSVT LOUD program.

For more information about these programs, contact Summit Therapy and Health Services at 509-332-5106.

Summit Therapy and Health Services is located at 1620 SE Summit Ct. Pullman, WA 99163.

Contact: Teresa Lane, Community Relations Intern
Pullman Regional Hospital

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