What is Neurological Physiotherapy?
Neurological conditions are any problems that occur in the brain, spinal cord, or nerves. People can experience difficulties in physical function, which can include mobility, muscle strength, range of movement, coordination, and balance.
Neurological Physiotherapy involves assessment, treatment, management, and rehabilitation of these issues.
Some types of neurological conditions that you may have heard of include Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Multiple Sclerosis, functional neurological disorders, and Cerebral Palsy. Treatment is individualized to your specific condition and symptoms as people can present very differently even with the same condition!
To move muscles effectively your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) sends signals down to the muscles (peripheral nervous system). When damage occurs to the nervous system the signals do not quite get there. That is where neuro physiotherapy comes in to see what is affected in the body, get those nervous system signals going again, retrain normal movement pathways or tap into alternative pathways/strategies.
Symptoms and presentations are varied depending on where the injury has occurred in the nervous system and that is why an assessment is crucial to determine what treatment is required. You may experience difficulty with everyday tasks such as walking. Relearning to walk may involve practicing normal movement patterns, stretches, and splinting to maintain flexibility, re-learning how to balance on one leg. People will progress at different speeds. Some may require equipment such as walking aids, foot splints, or orthotics. You will need a baseline assessment to see where you are at.
Neurological physiotherapy targets neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of neural networks in the brain to change and adapt through experience, growth, and re-organization. You want to promote neuroplasticity early on after injury and encourage the brain to form new synaptic connections. Think of it as rewiring the brain to re-learn tasks. It is best to commence physiotherapy as soon as possible. Research has shown that neuroplasticity and the window of rehabilitation gains extend beyond one year and later even with chronic stages of stroke. It is never too late to start neuro physio rehab!
Some interesting treatment modalities/adjuncts you might not have heard of include constraint-induced movement therapy, mirror box therapy, virtual reality, and functional electrical stimulation. This area of physiotherapy is quickly evolving, with new research, updates, and more technology being involved.
Family members and caregivers are encouraged to be involved in the process as they are crucial to rehabilitation success. Not only does this improve morale and keep clients motivated, but neuro-physiotherapy exercise requires high repetitions (lots and lots and lots of practice). Everyone involved can therefore make sure neuro-physiotherapy exercises are being done at the clinic and at home.
If you or know someone who has a neurological condition, come on in and book in for an assessment to work out the best treatment plan moving forward. Time to get some neuroplasticity happening!