How Physiotherapy Helps Support Patients With Neurological Disorders Or Conditions

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Understanding Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders include any diseases that affect the nervous system, which includes the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). 

Such disorders can affect both adults and children and often impact various parts of the body, such as the spinal cord, the brain, peripheral nerves, cranial nerves, nerve roots, neuromuscular junctions, and muscles. The disorders that typically tend to affect the CNS and PNS differ from each other, but some common disorders affect these systems.

When it comes to disorders that commonly affect the CNS, some of the most common conditions include Alzheimer’s disease, multiple system atrophy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, Rett syndrome, traumatic brain injury, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and dementia. 

In terms of disorders that commonly affect the PNS, this list includes Erb’s palsy, Bell’s palsy, diabetic neuropathy, Guillain-Barre syndrome, alcoholic neuropathy, HIV neuropathy, myasthenia gravis, cauda equina syndrome, and radiculopathy. 

These conditions each have unique impacts on those who suffer from them. Their symptoms include everything from loss of mobility, sensation, balance, or coordination to impaired speech, cognition, memory, or speech, as well as significant behavioural changes.

The Specialized Approach of Physiotherapy Clinics

One of the ways that people who are faced with neurological disorders can seek treatment is by going to a physiotherapy clinic for neurological physiotherapy. This therapy is aimed at helping an individual to either maintain or regain maximum movement capabilities and/or functional independence. 

A neurological physiotherapist can help along this kind of recovery in patients suffering from neurological disorders by using repetition and exercise to aid in the development of new pathways.

Although a physiotherapist may not always be able to directly or independently treat a specific medical condition other than musculoskeletal conditions, through various therapeutic approaches, they can help optimize recovery outcomes while also educating a person on how to help themself in various ways. 

In most cases, physiotherapy treatment includes examinations of a person’s flexibility, movement, and muscle and joint motion, leading to a clinical diagnosis, prognosis, and the development of a care plan that includes both long- and short-term goals. 

This is followed by various treatments and interventions targeted at the relief of certain symptoms, or the enhancement of particular functions, which is paired with detailed instructions on exercises the patient can do on their own at home.

What are the specialized techniques in neurological physiotherapy?

Neurological physiotherapy involves specific concentration on the comprehensive functionality of the nervous system, including the spinal cord, brain, and nerves. Neurological physiotherapists utilize specialized techniques to help enhance their patients’ motor function, balance, and coordination. 

Treatment approaches vary depending on the individual’s condition, symptoms, and goals. In many cases, however, a combination of methods focused on the improvement of normal movement, motor relearning, and synergistic movement are employed. As such treatments progress, patient will likely be able to regain their ability to complete everyday tasks like walking, climbing stairs, and getting out of bed on their own.

One example of an approach often used in neurological physiotherapy is the application of facilitation techniques. These involve proprioceptive maneuvers like joint compression, joint distraction, and the use of reflexes such as stretching and resisting to achieve optimal muscular function. 

Tapping is another technique used to facilitate voluntary muscle contractions by applying a light amount of force to muscles or tendons. One more method is cryotherapy, which uses ice to facilitate muscle responses through the combined sensations of coolness and pain. 

In recent years, traditional neurological physiotherapy approaches have become increasingly combined with the use of modern technologies that enhance the effectiveness of rehabilitation. 

Thus, some of the specialized approaches to therapy may include robotic-assisted training, virtual reality, non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS), and functional electrostimulation, which are various ways to manipulate brain excitability and plasticity.                 

How Physiotherapy Helps Enhance Neuroplasticity and Functional Improvement

Various parts of our brains are constantly transmitting information to each other and to other parts of our body. This information circulates within our brains from neuron to neuron via special connections called synapses. 

Neurons can increase or decrease the strength of existing synapses, and they can also form new synaptic connections or eliminate old ones. Our nervous system thus can alter its activity by reorganizing its structure, functions, or connections, which it does as a result of intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli. This is known as neuroplasticity.

Neurological physiotherapy takes advantage of the brain’s capacity to adapt and recover in this manner by providing targeted activities and exercises that stimulate the nervous system in various ways. 

Certain movements and exercises target neural pathways and assist in the growth of new neural connections. Therefore, by encouraging a patient to engage in such repetitive and functional movements, a physiotherapist can help improve functional recovery and promote neuroplastic changes. 

After assessing a person’s specific needs, a physiotherapist can design rehabilitation exercises and an overarching rehabilitation plan that will be most suitable for promoting neuroplasticity in that person’s brain.

As this rehabilitation plan is executed and the patient’s physiotherapy treatment progresses, they should experience notable improvements in their motor function, as well as other types of functional restoration and reduced pain.

By encouraging neuroplasticity, physiotherapists can also help halt disease progression and development, resulting in significant ongoing improvements to patients’ quality of life.

The Role of Physiotherapy in Managing Neurological Disorders and Conditions

Working with a physiotherapist who specializes in neurological physiotherapy is one of the best chances that someone has to overcome the symptoms that negatively impact their life when they are afflicted by a disorder or condition. 

Whether you have a condition like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or cerebral palsy (which affects your central nervous system), or one like Erb’s palsy, Bell’s palsy, diabetic neuropathy, or radiculopathy (which affects your peripheral nervous system), the various methods and technologies employed in neurological physiotherapy can help improve your quality of life. 

By engaging in specialized treatments and exercises that are aimed at triggering neuroplasticity in your brain so that it can form new synapses and, in turn, regain motor control and mobility, you can recover the ability to participate in all kinds of activities that you may otherwise struggle with.

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