Motor Re-Learning – What to do?

This is part of our on-going series of exploring neurological and degenerative conditions that can affect a number of individuals and specifically how Physical Therapy can help”

Today’s topic is what are certain activities that one can do to help my neural plasticity after a stroke or experiencing impairments from another neurological condition or degenerative disease.

As mentioned last week new research shows that performing a bout of aerobic exercise for 30 minutes or greater was very beneficial to aiding in motor re-learning.

First, pick a task that you are having difficulty with it may be getting out of bed, picking up a glass from the cupboard, getting out of a chair or maybe it is walking.  For an example lets pick the task of going from sitting to standing from a chair.  Generally, we take these tasks for granted but they can be hard tasks for many individuals.

First, break down the task – which part is difficult.  Is it the scooting forward, is it the leaning forward, pushing up with your legs or the initial balance of standing? Or is the whole task difficult?  Either way start with a task of that break down of movement.  So if it’s scooting, you will work on scooting.  You might need someone to help you, practice of different surfaces, different heights, varying levels of assistance and/or resistance.  Big keys to motor re-learning are repetition and environmental change.  As you begin to execute each task then it is time to put it all together where you repeat the sit to stand activity from a chair as many times as you would do a bicep curl for strengthening, like 3 sets of 20 or 3 sets of 10.

This break of task can be accomplished with other tasks like picking up a glass, walking, rolling in bed, turning the pages of a book, putting on your shirt.  The beauty of our brain is that we can make new connections but as we discussed in prior posts it is essential to start early when something has decreased or maintain a level of fitness so your function does not diminish to the degree that it might if you were sedentary.

These basic principles can be applied to a variety of tasks and Physical Therapy can be very beneficial in helping with this motor re-learning.  Your therapist can give you lots of homework, set you in a right direction and you can repeat, repeat, repeat and then able to notice a change.

Keep tuned for more interesting ways we can train our brains and help our function!

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