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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


Improving Mobility for Veterans with Parkinson's


Physical Therapists, Heather Mote and Vicki Cheng, demonstrate the LSVT BIG movements that they teach Veterans during the 16 session treatment.

By Erin Curran, Public Affairs Specialist
Monday, June 22, 2015

Helping Veterans improve mobility is the goal of physical therapists and the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment is doing just that for Parkinson's patients at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. Parkinson's disease causes changes in the brain that lead to body movements getting smaller, which over time, restricts body mobility. LSVT BIG is a physical therapy protocol that was developed specifically for Parkinson's patients to increase the amplitude of limb and body movement. The treatments help patients' speed and balance with an overall goal of enhancing their quality of life.

"The longer a patient is on medication for Parkinson's the less effective the medication will become," says Heather Mote, VA physical therapist. "LSVT BIG is a treatment that will continue to help the patient throughout the duration of their life."

Two Charleston VA physical therapists, Heather Mote and Vicki Cheng, have been certified to administer the LSVT treatment. After hearing from colleagues in the community about the remarkable improvements they saw in patients post treatment, they wanted to bring the treatment to the Charleston VA—and they have done just that. Mote and Cheng independently sought out the certification, attended the two day course in Jacksonville, Florida, and now lead Veterans through the program.

LSVT BIG is a 16 session program where the patient participates in one hour of treatment, four days a week for four weeks. Additionally, the patient is asked to complete daily in-home sessions. While the treatment is very intense it is proven to be effective.

"We had a patient that needed a cane and chair to steady his movement during therapy," said Cheng. "After completion of the program, the patient had improved so much he was able to get rid of his cane. Our goal is to reduce or get rid of assistive walking devices for our patients."

Parkinson's patients have to put in about 75 percent more effort to make the same size movements as those without the disease. The big movements repetitiously practiced through the LSVT BIG treatment help retrain the brain on the amount of effort needed to improve motor skills.

"All of our patients have said that this treatment program has changed their lives," says Mote. "I tell them that this program is just like a medication in the sense that you have to incorporate it into your daily life, practice every day, to achieve the results."


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