Improving Quality of Life for Parkinson’s Disease Patients

Two therapy programs at Texas Health Resources hospitals are helping patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) regain and maintain their ability to perform everyday activities.

Parkinson’s Disease is an illness that occurs when nerve cells in the brain gradually and inexplicably deteriorate, halting production of dopamine — a chemical muscles need to move properly. This process causes symptoms that progressively worsen, including tremors in the limbs, muscle stiffness, declining pace of movement and poor balance, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Researchers haven’t identified a cure for PD, but management strategies exist to help patients live more fulfilling lives.

“After diagnosing the disease based on symptoms and a neurological exam, a neurologist typically prescribes medications to boost patients’ production of dopamine,” said Carla L. Young, M.D., physical medicine and rehabilitation physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. “Recent studies by the NIH reveal intensive rehabilitation can result in functional gains. The studies noted that the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment [LSVT®] BIG™ and LOUD™ programs — therapies that enhance patients’ motor control and ability to communicate — help individuals with PD experience long-lasting improvement in different aspects of daily functioning. These therapies are atypical among PD rehabilitation strategies because studies have validated their long-term effectiveness.”

New Ways to Speak and Move

“Abnormal feedback to the brain makes PD patients think they’re speaking loudly enough to be heard or moving normally when they aren’t,” said Mary Meza, P.T., director of rehabilitation at Texas Health Arlington Memorial. “During LOUD, speech pathologists teach patients exercises to increase voice loudness with the goal of improving audible communication. Physical and occupational therapists use BIG exercises to amplify arm, leg and trunk movements to improve performance of daily activities, such as eating, dressing and walking.”

Any physician involved in a patient’s care can refer him or her to LOUD and BIG therapy. Referral in the early stages of the disease is best, as the therapies can delay the progression of symptoms, Meza said. Each program consists of four days of therapy sessions for four weeks, and patients must continue practicing the strategies they learn after the programs end.

BIG and LOUD can result in significant improvements in quality of life. Meza has seen patients return to walking, running, driving, singing and communicating effectively with loved ones — proof that enjoyment of life doesn’t end with a PD diagnosis.

Visit TexasHealth.org/Rehabilitation to learn more about rehabilitation services at Texas Health Resources.

Physicians on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.

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