When asked about what physical therapy means to them, most people would probably indicate it is treatment prescribed by a physician following a sports injury, post surgery or injuries sustained from another type of accident. What most people probably don’t think, is that physical therapy can play a large part in the treatment of neurological disorders (also called neurological diseases or conditions). Neuro disorders affect the brain, spinal cord or nervous system and include well known conditions such as ALS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s; however, did you know there are more than 1,000 such diseases? Some of the more well-known examples other than the ones just noted are:
- Cerebral palsy
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Traumatic Brain Injury
Quick neuro disorder facts:
- Approximately 1 BILLION people are affected (1 in 6 people) with a neuro condition
- 6.8 million people die each year as a result of neurological diseases
- Being diagnosed with a neurological condition is not a death sentence
- #1 cause of disabilities
- 10% of all emergency room visits are due to neuro condition complications
- Neuro conditions are NOT mental illnesses
- Almost all body functions can be affected by a neuro disease
- THERE ARE EFFECTIVE TREATMENTS – including physical and occupational therapies
How does physical therapy help?
Physical therapists are licensed professionals trained to evaluate and treat problems that affect movement. Movement is many times one of the ways in which neurological conditions have an impact on the body and many times, as certain neuro diseases progress, movement problems worsen (such is the case with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s). Some examples (obviously no where near exhaustive) of how certain diseases can inhibit movement and how physical therapy can improve movement are:
- Patients who have suffered strokes may experience abnormal gait (walking) which can then lead to wear on tear on knee and hip joints. Physical therapists can assist patients to correct the gait, improve mobility in the hip and knee and relieve pain.
- Patients with neuro conditions who need to learn to walk with a cane must first learn to sit and stand properly – activities which a physical therapist can teach.
- Patients who are at risk for falls. Physical therapists can develop plans of care to improve balance.
- Patients suffering from migraines can obtain pain relief and increase mobility in the neck and head areas with manual therapy (massage) provided by a physical therapist.
The PTs and PTAs at Therapy Unlimited are trained to customize each plan of care to specifically meet the unique needs of every patient and obtain realistic goals. The therapy one person receives will be different from the therapy another gets – often times even if those patients have the same underlying condition (because patients all have varying backgrounds, medical histories, and current abilities).
What can you expect during therapy?
Patients should expect to see a therapist two to three times a week for several weeks up to several months. For patients with lifelong debilitating neurological diseases, therapy may benefit the patient long-term over the course of progression of the condition. While physical therapy can’t stop or “cure” a neurological condition, it can help slow down the progression of symptoms involving movement and ease discomfort and pain levels.
At Therapy Unlimited, sessions may occur in our clinic setting, in the gym, in the pool, or in a private treatment room. When working with pediatric patients, therapy sessions can be set up to mimic play-time which puts the patients more at ease and willing to do the “work” (even if they don’t realize it!). Our goal is to help patients and their caregivers increase their knowledge and understanding of the condition, educate them on how to help ease symptoms at home (we don’t live in a clinical setting all the time), and work with them one-on-one on posture, balance, strength, stretching, range of motion, and pain relief. In addition, our staff includes occupational therapists who can work with patients on activities of daily living (dressing, cooking, hobbies, etc.) and cognitive functions.
How can you help your therapists?
Our staff is pretty amazing at what they do; however, physical therapy is a team effort that must include the active participation of the patient (and sometimes the patient’s caregivers). We ask patients to:
- Communicate. Communication is the absolute most important aspect of the relationship between the patient and therapist. Patients need to be honest and open with therapists about the severity of the conditions, the goals the patient would like to set, and what the patient is willing to do accomplish outside of the clinic setting – all these variables affect setting a plan of care
- Communicate some more! If you think you require additional therapy sessions or if your plan of care is too hard or strenuous or causes additional pain, it is imperative you talk to your therapist about it. Therapists aren’t mind readers – and without knowledge of how the session is affecting the patient negatively, they won’t be able to make necessary adjustments.
- Do the work at home. We don’t live in a clinical setting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our care in the therapeutic setting will carry over from session to session only if patients also continue the work at home.
Diagnosis of – and living with - a neurological condition doesn’t have to mean being sequestered to a life inside your home. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with stroke, ALS, Parkinson’s Alzheimer’s, etc. and is curious about whether physical or occupational therapy can be a benefit, call us for a complimentary screening.