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Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common neurological disorders, affecting 40,000 Australians. In most cases, the cause is unknown and signs of the disease occur and progress slowly over time.

It causes difficulty with balance, stiffness in muscles, slowness of movement and may cause a tremor in the hands. The cause of these movement changes is the death of specific cells in the brain that help start movement.

Parkinson’s disease is known as a movement disorder and movement is an important part of managing the condition. In addition to medication, physiotherapy has been shown to help with posture, movement and balance problems in people with Parkinson’s disease.

One feature of the disease is that movements become smaller: handwriting, speech and step length when walking. These small movements have been the focus of a new treatment approach which focuses on making movements bigger.

This treatment, called LSVT BIG, is based on an effective approach developed in the US over the last 25 years. Research has shown that this BIG approach leads to:

  • Better movement function
  • Faster walking with bigger steps
  • Improved balance
  • Improved trunk movement
  • Improved ability to complete daily activities such as moving around in bed

This BIG treatment is very intensive and designed to be carried out over four weeks. Ideally, the therapy involves 16 hour-long sessions focusing on intensive, active exercises and a home program that must be completed every day.

An example of one of the daily exercises

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Only certified therapists are able to carry out the BIG program. Our Neurological Physiotherapist, Dr Michelle McDonnell has completed this training and is available for consultations at The Physio Clinic in Prospect, South Australia.