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Standing Tall

Posted on January 5, 2018
Nicole Mailloux moves gracefully through a therapy exercise she compares to line dancing. It’s part of the simple yet effective LSVT BIG and LOUD therapy for those with Parkinson’s Disease.

Nicole Mailloux, 81, Rockwood, extends her foot in front of her body, and gracefully bends forward from the waist. “You bow like you are meeting the queen,” she says in her gentle French accent. Mailloux is explaining an exercise at Patricia Neal Outpatient Center that’s part of physical therapy designed for patients struggling with the effects of Parkinson’s disease. The Lee Silverman Voice Training (LSVT) “BIG and LOUD” therapy is a life changing course of treatment for people like Mailloux.

Born a French Canadian and having raised her children in Florida, she has now found a permanent home in Roane County, meanwhile finding the world class treatment she needs for the best quality of life. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s three years ago, Mailloux was walking with a cane the first time she had a therapy session at Patricia Neal Outpatient Therapy Center. Her prescription was for therapy four times a week plus home exercises, and she was stunned by the dramatic results. She no longer needs her cane.

“In two weeks it was like a 90 percent change,” Mailloux says. “When I went back to see my doctor, she could not believe the way I walked and talked.”

Speech pathologist Linda Singleton works with Nicole Mailloux on vocal exercises as part of LSVT BIG and LOUD therapy.
Speech pathologist Linda Singleton works with Nicole Mailloux on vocal exercises as part of LSVT BIG and LOUD therapy.
Physical therapist Andrea Branson guides Nicole Mailloux through exercises in LSVT BIG and LOUD. The therapy has been successful in helping patients with Parkinson’s Disease cope with symptoms.
Physical therapist Andrea Branson guides Nicole Mailloux through exercises in LSVT BIG and LOUD. The therapy has been successful in helping patients with Parkinson’s Disease cope with symptoms.

Therapists who administer this course of therapy have to be certified, and it isn’t available just anywhere. Not too long ago, Parkinson’s patients had to drive out of the county for treatment, and sometimes get on a waiting list, but LSVT BIG and LOUD is available to patients at Roane Medical Center every week.

About Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s is a progressive disease of the nervous system associated with degeneration of the part of the brain that produces dopamine, and dictates physical coordination. Parkinson’s is most common in people over the age of 60, and according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 50,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year. Due to the nature of the disease, sufferers commonly find they experience decreased range of motion, problems with balance, and difficulty with speech and swallowing. LSVT BIG and LOUD therapy can make a difference in each of those areas.

For Mailloux, Parkinson’s meant hand tremors, and walking became more and more of a challenge because her balance was off. At first she simply ignored the tremors, and she assumed the lack of balance was due to the glaucoma and macular degeneration that affected her eyesight.

About LSVT

After being diagnosed, Mailloux read that exercise could be beneficial to Parkinson’s patients. Then her granddaughter gave her a book that explained LSVT BIG and LOUD, and she heard it talked about in a local support group meeting.

The therapy comes in two parts. The “LOUD” portion includes vocal exercises. “Almost like a singer,” Mailloux explains. “And you do it very loud.” The other part of therapy is called “BIG,” because it’s all about exaggerated physical movements. “You do a lot of exercise wide and up, and you concentrate on your posture,” Mailloux says. “It really works. It doesn’t sound like it’s possible, but it works.”

While Mailloux praises Patricia Neal Outpatient Therapy Center and LSVT BIG and LOUD, she cautions that patients get out of it what they put into it for life. “You have to keep going, and do the exercises at home,” she says emphatically.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, so it’s important to learn to live with exercises just like you have to learn to live with the permanent diagnosis. Mailloux says the life changing results are well worth the investment of time.

“I was walking with a cane just a few months ago!” says Mailloux, recalling her first day of therapy and noting how far she’s come. “I’m amazed!”

To learn more about LSVT BIG and LOUD, and other services of Patricia Neal Outpatient Center, click here, or call (865) 316-2950.