Tips & Techniques

New Treatment Option for People with Parkinson’s Disease at Smith Balance Center

Dana Tress 
March 24, 2022
New Treatment Option for People with Parkinson’s Disease at Smith Balance Center

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder.   This happens because of changes occurring in the brain in which, for unknown reasons, cells that produce an important neurotransmitter, called Dopamine, die. Individuals living with PD tend to have many similar symptoms.  Some of these symptoms include:  bradykinesia (slow movement), hypokinesia (smaller than normal movements), tremors, freezing of movement, and slow, quiet speech.  The individual feels like they are moving and speaking normally, even though they are not.  They are not able to independently calibrate their movement to be the speed and size of what we consider “normal.”  The great news is that there are effective physical therapy interventions for individuals living with PD that can actually help them make improvements in the quality of their movements and, most importantly, improve their quality of life.  

We now offer a program called LSVT BIG at Smith Balance Center.  This program is the only rehabilitation program for people with PD that is supported by the highest level of research.  This intensive rehabilitation program combines a protocol of daily exercises, functional and complex tasks that are tailored to the specific needs and goals of each individual.  The program focuses on five essential components:

  • Modeling movement by having the client follow what the therapist does
  • Shaping movements with hands-on help
  • Driving increased, bigger movement with use of targets and enthusiasm
  • Stabilization by reinforcing movement with verbalizations
  • Calibration by identifying how the exercises relate to tasks important to the client

One question we get asked frequently is how do individuals living with PD improve if they are living with a degenerative disorder?  This is such a fantastic question.  Even though people with PD have a condition that progresses over time, the brain is still adaptable.  This is because of a concept called neuroplasticity.  Neuroplasticity is a fabulous phenomenon that allows the brain to form new nerve pathways.  To accomplish this, we use exercises in tasks during the LSVT BIG Program that have high levels of intensity, complexity, timing and salience.  By doing this, we can create new and improved neural pathways to improve the quality and amplitude of movement.  New motor pathways means someone living with PD is able to be independent longer, be more safe with balance, and continue to participate in all of the activities they love.

If you feel that the LSVT BIG might be beneficial for you or a loved one, please reach out to us any time!  We are always here and happy to answer your questions.


Meet the Author
Dana Tress, PT, MS, CEAS, AIB-CON is a physical therapist specializing in the management of concussion, balance dysfunction, headaches and dizziness in Crystal Lake, Illinois at Smith Physical Therapy Balance + Concussion Center, an award winner in concierge physical therapy services for McHenry County and surrounding regions.
You were made to move!