Parkinson's Disease
April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month.  Approximately one million Americans live with Parkinson’s disease.  Parkinson’s disease typically affects people over the age of 50 and is characterized by resting tremor, rigidity, postural instability, slowness of movement, and reduced amplitude of movement. It is a progressive disorder that results in the loss of nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine.  Dopamine is a chemical messenger that transmits signals between two regions of the brain to coordinate activity.  If there is deficiency of dopamine, nerve cells “fire” out of control. This leaves people unable to direct or control movements.  When people with Parkinson’s disease try to move, they encounter the following problems:

  • The “Get Ready” signal is too weak: This results in inadequate preparation or anticipation for movement. There is bradykinesia – slowness of movement, and hypokinesia – reduced amplitude of movement.
  • The “Go” signal is too weak: This results in inadequate selection or ability to start movement. There is freezing or start hesitation when trying to move.
  • The “No Go” signal is too weak: This results in inadequate completion of movement. There is festination – small, accelerating steps when walking, and sequential movements more difficult and run together.

Treatment of Parkinson ’s Disease:

Medication is a vital component of treatment for Parkinson’s Disease.  There have been many advances in medication therapy for treatment for Parkinson’s Disease and many new treatments are on the horizon.  In addition to medication, other treatments include:

Rehabilitative Therapy

Physical, occupational and speech therapists can assess the person’s abilities and needs, and provide exercises to help maintain the highest possible range of motion, muscle tone, balance and flexibility, and communication ability.

LSVT Big and Loud are rehabilitative treatment programs that are designed specifically for people with Parkinson’s Disease. LSVT BIG trains people with Parkinson disease (PD) to use their body more normally.  People living with PD or other neurological conditions often move differently, with gestures and actions that become smaller and slower. They may have trouble with getting around, getting dressed and with other activities of daily living. LSVT BIG effectively trains improved movements for any activity, whether “small motor” tasks like buttoning a shirt or “large motor” tasks like getting up from sofa or chair or maintaining balance while walking. The treatment improves walking, self-care and other tasks by helping people “recalibrate” how they perceive their movements with what others actually see. It also teaches them how and when to apply extra effort to produce bigger motions – more like the movements of everyone around them.

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. That said, the treatment may be most effective in early or middle stages of your condition, when you can both improve function and potentially slow further symptom progression. Beginning your work with LSVT BIG before you’ve noticed significant problems with balance, mobility or posture will often lead to the best results, but it’s never too late to start. LSVT BIG can produce significant improvements even for people facing considerable physical difficulties.

 LSVT LOUD is an effective speech treatment for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and other neurological conditions.  Named for Mrs. Lee Silverman (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment), a woman living with PD, the program trains people with PD to use their voice at a more normal loudness level while speaking at home, work, or in the community. Key to the treatment is helping people “recalibrate” their perceptions so they know how loud or soft they sound to other people and can feel comfortable using a stronger voice at a normal loudness level.

LSVT LOUD has also helped people with atypical parkinsonisms, such as progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and has recently shown promise for adults with speech issues arising from stroke or multiple sclerosis and children with cerebral palsy or Down syndrome. Beginning your work with LSVT LOUD before you’ve noticed significant problems with voice, speech and communication will often lead to the best results, but it’s never too late to start. LSVT LOUD has the potential to produce significant improvements even for people facing considerable communication difficulties.

Lifestyle alterations

Exercise helps maintain muscle tone and strength. Diet is important for nutrition, for maintaining an appropriate weight, and because protein level may be a factor in the person’s condition. Rest and stress reduction are also important.

Support Groups –

Huntsville enjoys a very active Parkinson’s support group that offers aid, support, education, discussion and raises research funds for treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Information about Huntsville’s support group can be found at http://parkinsons-huntsville.webs.com/ or calling 256-509-4398.

The therapists at Therapy Achievements have worked with people with Parkinson’s Disease for over 20 years.  Our physical therapists are LSVT BIG certified and help people re-gain strength, balance and coordination for walking and moving.  Our occupational therapist are LSVT BIG certified as well and help people re-gain fine motor coordination for writing and manipulating objects, help identify adaptive equipment to make completing tasks easier, and assess safety for driving and train in adaptive driving strategies.  Our speech therapists are LSVT LOUD and Speak Out certified and help people re-gain voice volume and articulation for speaking, concentration, memory and problem solving for thinking, and chewing and swallowing function for eating.

For more information on what Therapy Achievements can do for you call 256-509-4398.

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