Physical therapy program can help Parkinson’s patients with walking, daily functions

LSVT BIG protocol encourages large movements; offered at St. Joseph’s/Candler Outpatient Rehabilitation – St. Joseph’s Hospital location

There are a lot of unknowns regarding Parkinson’s disease including what causes it and a cure for the neurodegenerative disorder. However, the right physical therapy program can help slow the progression of Parkinson’s.

One such program is LSVT BIG, which is an intensive, whole body amplitude-based protocol to help individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Remy Wilkins, physical therapist at St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Outpatient Rehabilitation St. Joseph’s Hospital location, is certified in LSVT BIG. 

Remy Wilkins
Remy Wilkins, physical therapist at St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Outpatient Rehabilitation St. Joseph’s Hospital location

“By implementing the large amplitude LSVT program, we can help slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease within the brain and develop strategies to overcome the motor deficits and other brain abnormalities consistent with Parkinson’s,” Wilkins says.

What is Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a slowly progressing, degenerative disease that occurs due to the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Dopamine is a substance made in the body that helps with smooth and coordinated muscle movement. The cause of Parkinson’s is unknown.

Parkinson’s may appear in younger people, however, it usually affects people later in life. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, about 1 million Americans live with Parkinson’s disease, with approximately 60,000 people diagnosed each year.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s can include:

  • Tremor or trembling of the arms, jaw, legs and face
  • Stiffness or rigidity of the limbs and trunk
  • Slowness of movement
  • Impaired balance and coordination

How LSVT BIG physical therapy can help

Due to these symptoms, individuals with Parkinson’s over time may have difficulty with common motor skills including walking, getting up from a chair or bed or reaching for something.

“A lot of Parkinson’s patients make smaller movements and get really tight and don’t move like they want to,” Wilkins says. “LSVT BIG tries to break patients out of those shells and gets them to move bigger, resulting in movement patterns that make them safer and more balanced while they are doing their daily activities.”

LSVT BIG helps Parkinson’s patients make larger movements through exercises that can be translated to daily life. The protocol is intensive and complex with many repetitions of core movements. Exercise examples include forward step and reach, side step and reach or standing from a seated position.

By repeating these amplitude exercises, the brain will begin to send signals to the motor units to perform larger movements, preventing falls and making daily functioning easier, Wilkins says.

The LSVT BIG protocol can be applied to Parkinson’s patients early or late in their diagnosis; however, Wilkins encourages patients to seek physical therapy as soon as possible.

“Research has shown the sooner a patient can implement LSVT BIG principles into their daily lives the better function they will have,” Wilkins says.

What one can expect during physical therapy

LSVT BIG physical therapy includes an evaluation, 16 sessions and a discharge meeting. The sessions are an hour long, four times a week for four weeks. Additionally, patients will be given a home exercise program that should be done twice a day.

“It is a very involved program,” Wilkins says. “The home exercises are extremely important to do from the beginning because after they are done with me, those exercises can become their daily workout to maintain all the improvements they’ve made.”

Parkinson’s patients that participate in LSVT BIG and maintain a home exercise routine should experience less falls, functionally be able to get out of bed or a chair, require less assistance from caregivers and walk better.

“I think the LSVT BIG program is an awesome thing for us to have here in Savannah,” Wilkins says. “Don’t be afraid to contact us for more information, even if it’s not in regards to the LSVT program.”

A physician’s referral is required for physical therapy at St. Joseph’s/Candler Outpatient Rehabilitation centers. For more information about the LSVT BIG program, call our St. Joseph’s Hospital location at 912-819-2446. If you’d like outpatient rehabilitation services from any of our five locations, visit our website to learn more. 

  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
  • Find us on:

St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000