What is Neurological Rehabilitation?
Most often we associate Physical Therapy with orthopedic injuries and/or surgeries and this is a major aspect of the practice of Physical Therapy. However, there are many different subtypes such as cardiovascular/pulmonary, geriatrics, pediatrics, neurology and women’s health.
Neurological rehabilitation is an area that is both challenging and interesting. It has also been in the news with actor Michael J. Fox living with Parkinson’s and the recovery of Senator Gabrielle Giffords after she suffered a gunshot wound to the head. So what is neurological rehabilitation? It is the treatment of a variety of impairments such as poor balance, muscle weakness, gait deviations, movement deficits, loss of timing/coordination sequencing which can cause loss of functional independence whether it be with walking or putting on a shirt. There are a multitude of neurological conditions but some that you may have heard or are Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Spinal Cord Injuries, Cerebral Palsy, Alzheimers disease, ALS and other degenerative diseases. The above conditions can affect people in many different manners; deficits can be subtle or they can be life changing but in a majority of cases physical therapy can help!
A unique aspect of this type of rehabilitation is that a person’s therapy can consist of physical, occupation and speech therapies – a whole body team approach. Neurological rehab focuses on the connection of the brain and the body, basically trying to reconfigure the “computer code/connections” of the brain to send better signals to our body in order complete certain tasks and movements needed for daily living. There is a unique plasticity of our brain that accommodates for “new” connections or re-wiring that allows for for improvement within certain disease stages.
The strategies used for neurological rehab are based on this plasticity and working on certain tasks that are more difficult to achieve. For example, many people have difficulty walking if they are living with certain neurological conditions. A therapist will employ a variety of tools and strategies to help improve this activity. These may include physically assisting a person walk, manually providing cues for them to do right sequence, using a treadmill to assist with cadence and timing, electrical stimulation to assist with muscle with control and activation, improving trunk stability and balance reactions with certain exercises. These treatment techniques along with many others can help a person improve their movement patterns and decrease their compensation strategies associated with certain neurological conditions.
At some point in our lives we have known somebody or we may be that somebody down the road that is presented with condition that is a little out of the realm of what we know as a regular injury. Stayed tuned for more posts about the neurological rehab world and what treatments or strategies can help you or someone you know.