Physical Therapy News

Fight Parkinson’s disease with LSVT BIG

Parkinson's Disease, LSVT BIG, Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Sparta, Cedar Springs

It starts out slow with a slight shake in your hands and fingers. You begin to notice things like your handwriting getting a bit smaller, and your sense of smell just isn’t what it used to be. Overall you seem to be moving a little slower and you’ve been having trouble sleeping. What may seem like simple signs of aging could actually be the onset of Parkinson’s disease.

Learn how to fight Parkinson’s disease
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s, there are ways to treat the disease, keeping symptoms to a minimum. The LSVT BIG program encourages people to do different activities in their everyday lives that focus on BIG and quick movements. It’s based on the concept of neuroplasticity, which is when the brain reorganizes itself by forming new neural connections. By adjusting activities in response to new situations or changes in their environment, neuroplasticity allows the brain to compensate for injury and disease.

The LSVT program began as a form of speech therapy, now known as LSVT LOUD. Initially clinicians and researchers found that patients with Parkinson’s spoke quietly, but with increased voice amplitude their speech significantly improved. They applied that same concept to the patient’s ability to move and the LSVT BIG program began. Essentially, when a patient learns to make bigger movements with increased amplitude, it becomes easier to conduct what would be considered normal walking and movement patterns.

LSVT BIG treatment should begin as early as possible after diagnosis, but it’s never too late to start. With this intensive four week program, the goal is to recalibrate the patient’s movement patterns in order to help them move with increased safety and efficiency.

Research has shown positive effects on patients who have concluded LSVT BIG treatments. Patients have a better and faster gait while being able to take larger steps, stronger balance which reduced their risk of falls, and an increased range of motion in the back and joints.

In order for a physical therapist to administer LSVT BIG treatment, they must first get certified. After graduating from Andrews University, Rossi Garcia had some really incredible clinical experiences along the West coast and here in West Michigan. At one of her clinical rotations she was exposed to LSVT BIG and was amazed at how something so simple could have such a profound impact on someone with Parkinson’s disease.

Rossi’s experience with LSVT BIG proved successful with nearly every patient in one form or another. Seemingly small changes eventually became big changes.

Fight Parkinson's disease with LSVT BIG

Physical therapist, Rossi Garcia, is an LSVT BIG certified therapist with Northern. She is pictured center, with physical therapist Lisa Otterbein-Bolek (left) and Bethany Scott (right) at the grand opening of our Comstock Park physical therapy clinic.

“Working with Parkinson’s patients is enjoyable because I get to know the patient on a very personal level while helping them reach goals they never thought would be possible with the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease,” explains Rossi. “It’s really cool to see a smile on their face when they see how much they’ve improved – there’s really nothing better than that.”

If you or a loved one is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, LSVT BIG may be an ideal program. You can schedule a free consultation with Rossi to determine if physical therapy and LSVT BIG treatment is right for you.


The video below shows how one man is learning to live with Parkinson’s disease by utilizing the LSVT BIG principles.


Five Ways Your Posture is Hurting You

Poor posture, back pain, headaches, neck pain, jaw pain

Raise your hand if you’re guilty of having poor posture…I’m right there with you. In fact, poor posture habits are something that most of us are guilty of from time to time. Have you ever really stopped to consider the consequences your body suffers as a result? Now that we so often have a smartphone or tablet in our hands, we spend even more time in a hunched position. These postures can have detrimental effects on our spine and the surrounding joints and soft tissues.

When you look at the spine from the side, you’ll see that it’s not straight up and down, it has several curves that create an “S” shape, which is important for absorbing the stress placed on our bodies. When we lose those normal curves due to continued poor posture, it can cause pain. The lower back and the neck have a normal backward curve and the upper back has a forward curve. Postural dysfunction occurs when the normal curves increase or decrease, leading to pain in and around your spine.

A common postural issue we often see in physical therapy is a forward head posture. A forward head posture is seen when the earlobe sits in front of the tip of the shoulder, causing an increased curve in your upper back. Over time, these poor postures can cause the following problems that often lead patients to seek physical therapy:

Five Ways Your Posture is Hurting You1. Headaches
When you lose the normal backward curve of your neck, and your cervical spine straightens or begins to curve forward, ultimately placing stress on the muscles, leading to headaches. Additionally, the nerves and joints in the upper neck can be compressed, causing pain in the neck and into the head as well.

2. Shoulder impingement
When the forward curve of your upper back increases, your shoulder blades sit more forward and higher on your back. When raising your arms overhead, your shoulder blade rotates a certain way to allow full shoulder motion. When the position of your shoulder blade changes, this rotation can decrease and you are now at an increased risk of pinching the tendons in your shoulder when you raise your arm overhead. This is called shoulder impingement and it can lead to pain and the break down of these tendons, increasing your chance of tendon tears.

3. Jaw pain
Pain in and around the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is common with forward head posture due to abnormal stress placed on the mandible (lower jaw bone) and the soft tissues around your TMJ. If you compensate for the loss of your cervical curve with head extension, the muscles that open your mouth are stretched and your mouth will rest in an open position. In order to keep your mouth closed at rest, the muscles that close your mouth will work extra hard which can cause pain in the cheeks, head, and jaw. Additionally, increased stress on the soft tissues around the TMJ can cause pain and clicking or popping.

Five Ways Your Posture is Hurting You4. Neck pain
Loss of the cervical curve will place increased tension on the ligaments along the back of the neck. This increased tension can lead to the formation of bone spurs where these ligaments attach, as well as an increased chance of tears in your discs, leading to herniated discs. Bone spurs and herniated discs can affect the nerves that run from your spinal cord in your neck to your arms, causing pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness.

5. Respiratory dysfunction
In order to take a nice deep breath, the lungs need room to expand. When your posture is hunched forward, your ribs have less ability to move and expand, causing more shallow breathing patterns and excessive use of the accessory breathing muscles in your neck. This type of breathing pattern can further contribute to neck pain and have serious effects for people with underlying respiratory disorders.

We’re here to help
The good news? Physical therapy can help reverse all these issues. We’re trained in manual therapy techniques to stretch and mobilize your tight soft tissues and joints and we can show you exercises designed to strengthen your weak muscles to improve your overall posture and movement. To request an appointment for a free consultation, click here!







Preventing Golf Injuries

Preventing golf injuries

This year it seems as though we waited way too long for warmer weather to arrive but now that it’s finally here, it’s time to dust the clubs off and get your golf game back into motion. But, there’s nothing worse than starting the season off with an injury or nagging back pain.

We’ve found that golfers of all levels agree that it’s much easier to make a mechanically correct swing when the body is strong and flexible. Getting your body in shape for the season ahead involves three components:
– maintaining and improving flexibility
– improving golf specific strength
– improving postural balance and stability

Preventing Golf InjuriesFlexibility & Strengthening Exercises
Now is the time to begin a stretching and strengthening program for your neck, back and extremities. Increasing joint flexibility can lengthen your swing and increase the club head speed, resulting in longer shots.

We’ve listed the most common injuries along with stretching tips to help prevent or reduce pain and/or injuries resulting from the repetitive nature of the golf swing paired with the high velocity forces.

Medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow)
Golfer’s elbow involves increased inflammation and pain on the inside of the elbow.  Try extending and flexing the wrist, and rotating your wrist clockwise and counter-clockwise to strengthen and stretch it.

Preventing Golf Injuries

Shoulder tendonitis, or “rotator cuff tendonitis”
This can be a chronic problem for people who have tightness or weak areas within their shoulders. Start with the cross chest stretch by bringing your injured arm across your body then place your other hand on your elbow and hold the stretch. You can also stand upright and clasp your hands behind your back. Keep your arms straight and slowly lift your hands upwards. Hold this stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat it 2 to 3 times.

Low back pain
Back pain affects most golfers at one time or another because the golf swing combines unnatural spinal movements. The following stretch is great for increasing flexibility in the low back. Begin by lying on your left side, bend both knees 90 degrees, resting the right knee on top of the left. Extend both arms straight out from the shoulders, resting the left arm on the floor, right arm on top of the left. Slowly raise your right arm off your left, up and over your body until it is resting on the floor behind you, creating a twist in your upper body. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, and repeat the exercise by lying on your right side.

Neck Pain
The ability to comfortably and fully tuck and rotate your chin is necessary to achieve a good swing position. Limitations in flexibility or range of motion can cause muscle strain or nerve pinching. To help alleviate the stress on the neck, try gently rotating your neck from side to side and front to back, twice per day for twenty seconds.

Preventing Golf Injuries

Being aware of your posture and physically preparing your body are key elements to achieving a pain free golf game. If you have questions concerning golf-related injuries, or would like to schedule a free consultation, feel free to contact the Northern Physical Therapy near you to speak to a physical therapist.




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Allendale > 6173 Lake Michigan Dr.
Cedar Springs > 308 S. Main
Comstock Park > 4615 W. River Dr.
Coopersville > 25 Conran
Grant > 17615 W. Moore
Lowell > 2050 W. Main
Norton Shores > 6022 Harvey
Sparta > 31 Ida Red
Wayland > 709 West Superior


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