Parkinson's BIG therapy works wonders

When Neurologist Kathryn A. Chung, MD, at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) recommended physical therapy for Phyllis V., a Stayton resident, she suggested two options: OHSU Parkinson Center of Oregon or the Salem Health Rehabilitation Center. She wanted to be sure Phyllis received treatment from a therapist trained in the LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment) BIG program.

BIG is a clinically proven method for improving functional movement and gait quality in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

According to Richard V., Phyllis’ husband of 46 years and previously clinical director at Oregon State Hospital, “It was shocking at first. The very first day of therapy in Salem, Phyllis learned how to get out of a chair for the first time in a couple years without assistance.”

Through a partnership with the OHSU Parkinson Center of Oregon, Phyllis’ physical therapist, Salem Health’s Jason Gough, received Parkinson’s-specific training in addition to his extensive education in the LSVT program. Jason Gough; Nicole Collings, speech-language pathologist; and Cathy Wilson, occupational therapist, also of Salem Health, are affiliated with OHSU’s TEAM-PD, which stands for Therapists Educated and Aligned in Managing Parkinson’s Disease. 

“We are fans of Jason,” said Richard. “It is a fantastic program. I don’t say this lightly. We had all kinds of physical therapy and nothing helped until we got to Jason.”

Phyllis didn’t have tremors. She had a balance disorder and fell backwards often. Jason Gough taught a variety of exercises to help her balance, stability and movement.

“Since rehab, she has had only one fall in the last two months,” said Richard.

“When you have Parkinson’s, a neurological condition, your perception and reality of movements become small … for example, when you see someone shuffling to walk,” said Richard. “BIG helps you overcome these things. For example, you take big steps and march. You don’t cross-step, which is dangerous.”

In addition to being LSVT BIG certified, Jason Gough has taken additional courses on Parkinson’s Plus syndromes from the OHSU Parkinson Center of Oregon. Through these courses, he learned specifically about the loss of ability to shift weight from limb to limb in patients with Parkinson’s disease and that is something he worked on with Phyllis.

“If you remember from your childhood, Bobo the clown (a toy floor punching bag),” said Richard, “Parkinson’s has that effect. People’s feet freeze to the floor when they try to move and this can lead to dangerous falls.”

Because of Salem Health Rehabilitation’s partnership and training with OHSU Parkinson Center of Oregon, Parkinson’s patients outside Portland are regularly referred to Salem.

“Parkinson’s is a progressive disease,” said Jason Gough. “BIG is a commitment (four therapy sessions per week for four consecutive weeks), but it gives people the tools they need to compensate for the neurological impacts on their body and muscles.” 

“For Phyllis and me,” Richard said, “it gave us hope."

Subscribe to the You Matter Blog

* indicates required