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Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - New Parkinson’s therapy offers BIG improvements for patients

  Bill Player
Bill Player
Bill Player of Oak Ridge, 69, had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s since 2003, and the symptoms of the progressive neurological disease were making it increasingly difficult to walk.

“I needed a cane to get around,” said Player. Wanting to improve his ability to walk, Player began a special exercise program in March for Parkinson’s patients at Methodist Therapy Center in Oak Ridge.

Called “BIG,” the program consisted of 16 exercise sessions trademarked by LVST Global, a Tucson, Ariz., company.

Player worked with physical therapist Margaret Keele, who is certified to teach BIG. Together they met four times each week for an hour each day, over a month.

The exercises use exaggerated movements to counteract the small, slow movements typical of Parkinson’s patients. Keele and Player performed exaggerated, “BIG” movements like swinging their arms back and forth and across the body, bending and stretching down to the floor, and stepping high.

“Margaret was very enthusiastic about it,” said Player. “We had a good time but she was all business. In the end it worked, and I still don’t know how it works.”

In studies, Parkinson’s patients who do the BIG exercises show marked improvement in the length of their gate, and in walking balance.“

I went from needing a cane to walk all the time, to needing no cane at all in the house. I still take a cane with me outside just in case, but I hardly need it,” Player said.

Parkinson’s patients tend to move slowly and take shuffling steps, explained Keele, but think their movements are normal. “In Parkinson’s patients, the signals coming to brain may be perceived as normal, when really they’re too small and slow,” said Keele.

While it is not a cure for the disease, the BIG program can slow down and even reverse some symptoms, in a sense retraining the brain on how the body is supposed to move.“

It’s a high intensity program, and requires a lot of effort from the patient,” said Keele. “When applied, it increases the way you move, the range of motion and calibration, so that it’s more like normal movement.”

Although early treatment is best, no time is too late to start. Patients also practice real-life activities such as scooping rice with a spoon and buttoning buttons.

“Buttoning shirts is very difficult for me. I was having the laundry button my shirts before I picked them up, to save me 20 minutes from putting a shirt on,” said Player. “But now I can do it.”

Player had homework to do every night and weekends, and has continued with the exercises after his treatment.

Player added that he would highly recommend Methodist Therapy Center and the BIG program to anyone with Parkinson’s disease. “They treat you very kindly and you don’t feel like somebody’s just going through the motions,” he said. “They really care.”

Dream Big