Neuro physiotherapy: A complete guide to this beneficial practice
What is neuro physiotherapy?
Neuro physiotherapy is a type of therapeutic intervention that aims at treating patients who suffer from disorders that are neurological in nature. Neuro physiotherapy is not just one technique but rather a multitude of intervention techniques aimed at rehabilitating patients with very specific disorders and traumas. The same way that neurological disorders need cognitive treatment, some of the disorders that neuro physiotherapy attempts to address are various issues that affect areas such as the brain, the spinal cord, and nerves.
Common issues that almost always affect these areas are strokes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. The end goal of this treatment is to help alleviate the symptoms and make life easier for those who have these disorders. This is achieved by assisting the person in restoring motor movement and functions that may have been impaired through issues that affect the systems that control the body’s motor skills.
Neuro Physiotherapy Techniques
Neuro physiotherapy does not just use one method of treatment to help restore motor control and diminish the negative effects of neurological disorders, but many different exercises, mostly physical to aid in restoring motor function, and giving the patients back some of the control they may have lost. Some of the exercises used in neuro physiotherapy include tapping, brushing, cryotherapy, passive stretching, joint compression and vibration therapy.
Each of these methods aims to enhance motor control movement and improve muscle activity. To improve motor control, the goal of these exercises is to encourage a movement response and help the patient strengthen the affected muscles and nerves that were affected. The foundation of the exercises used in neuro physiotherapy comes from a theoretical model called The Rood Approach. This was based on the Reflex and Hierarchical Model of Motor Control, which was founded by Margaret Rood in the 1950s. These therapeutic interventions can be extraordinarily beneficial in helping the individual regain control of not only their body but also their life.
Neuro Physiotherapy: Tapping
This method is used to evaluate the reflex activity of the muscle and aims for a muscle contraction as a response. It is a light force applied manually over a tendon or muscle belly to facilitate a voluntary contraction.
Neuro Physiotherapy: Brushing
Is the process of promoting movement responses by using a battery-operated brush on the skin overlying the muscle. This is done in a fast-paced motion on the skin over muscle.
Neuro Physiotherapy: Cryotherapy
This method uses near-freezing temperatures to promote pain relief and healing of muscles and joints. By using mild cryotherapy such as ice packs, the therapist may elicit the desired muscle response from the area that has been affected.
Neuro Physiotherapy: Passive Stretching
There are three types of passive stretching that the therapist may use; fast, prolonged, and maintained passive stretching. Each of these methods looks to aid the muscle in producing a short contraction.
Neuro Physiotherapy: Joint Compression
Through this method, the stabilization of joints and stabilization of the body is the goal. This can be done with manual stimulation or weighted intervention. There are two main types of compression; light compression and heavy compression. Light compression involves normal body weight, and heavy compression involves greater compression than is had by body weight alone.
Neuro Physiotherapy: Vibration Therapy
Therapists aim to reduce muscle spasms in patients who have neurological disorders through increasing corticospinal excitability and inhibitory neuronal activity in the muscle.
Neuro Physiotherapy: What do neuro physiotherapists do?
Neuro physiotherapy trainers are physical therapists who specialize in assisting those who have suffered injury, illness, disabilities, or birth defects which have affected the brain or spinal cord and nerves that have resulted in difficulty or loss of movement, or other damage to the body. Neuro physiotherapy focuses on a variety of different functions such as:
1. Improve patients range of motion– many patients who seek neuro physiotherapy have suffered an unforeseen, acute injury or neurological issue. Many of these patients have experienced a loss in their range of motion.
2. Help build muscle strength and improve movement– often when a person experiences a stroke, an injury to their spinal cord or nervous system, or suffers an illness such multiple sclerosis it is not uncommon for them to lose the use of a part of their body. When a person does not use a part of their body for an extended period, the muscle can begin to atrophy. To prevent the muscle from deteriorating the therapist will assist the patient in several exercises that will promote muscle growth and increase the strength of the muscle. This is often a part of therapy that takes the most time.
3. Core stabilization – When a person experiences a spinal injury or is born with an illness that affects the spine their core is also affected. The spine is aided by the core of the body and aids in maintaining the other parts of the body.
4. Motor control enhancement – People who suffer from neurological impairments often find they have either a decrease or loss in motor control. This can make their life increasingly difficult. A person’s motor ability is what allows them to perform life’s simple but crucial tasks. A person who has experienced a loss of motor control may experience; difficulty holding utensils, bathing, tying their shoe, getting dressed, and other tasks that many others do without a second thought. Improving this aspect in a patient is crucial as it drastically improves their life.
5. Balance training – Stroke patients and people who have experienced other brain injuries routinely find they suddenly have a difficulty with their balance. Many people who experience brain injuries cannot walk for a period or discover they have trouble walking and when a person cannot walk, they begin to experience balance issues.
6. Stamina – After a brain injury, a person often loses the ability to engage in needed cardiovascular exercise, such as walking and running. When a person does not get enough exercise, they begin to experience a loss of stamina.
7. Prosthesis adjustment – Individuals who have lost a limb often find it very tasking to adjust to their new limb. Many find that its harder to adjust mentally to their new reality.
8. Adjusting to daily assistant equipment– Individuals whose injury require them to use a wheelchair or crutches to walk may find it difficult to do so. The therapist can assist the patient in using the equipment in a way that would not inhibit their range of motion in a significant manner.
Neuro physiotherapy: Aimed at what population
Neuro physiotherapy is aimed at a variety of different populations. The only common factor between the populations is they have suffered an injury that affects their range of motion, balance, and coordination. Neuro physiotherapy is great for a variety of patients:
Pediatric – Physical therapists in this field mainly work with children who have suffered an injury that requires intervention to improve their mobility or motor skills.
General – Those in this field largely focus on adults and young adults.
Geriatric – This population is concentrated on aiding the elderly in returning what they may have lost from a traumatic injury to their brain or spine. These neuro-physiotherapists only work with the elderly population. They usually work with neuropsychologists that train cognitive skills.
Orthodontic – Individuals who experience a stroke may often find they have loss of motor skills in their facial area. They may have difficulty chewing, talking, and controlling their facial muscles. Neuro physiotherapy who work with these patients will focus on the facial muscles.
Spinal – People who suffer from spinal injuries or disease such as Multiple Sclerosis may also have difficulties that affect the rest of their body, but a spinal cord issue is a reason. The therapist will assist the individual in addressing the spine.
Podiatric – Many patients who suffer a severe accident that results in a broken limb which puts that part of the body out of commission for a few months. In cases like these physiotherapists may be able to help the person regain full function and motor control.
Neuro Physiotherapy: What do I need to study?
The path to becoming a physical therapist is strenuous, long, and very competitive. The path to becoming a neuro physiotherapy is even harder as it requires a specialization, so if you ever find yourself in the need a neuro-physiotherapist rest assured that they have been thoroughly trained in what it takes to help get your life back on track.
The first step an individual must take to become a neuro physiotherapy is to earn their bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. This takes the individual four years to complete, once this step is completed the student must obtain their doctorate in physical therapy (DPT). To qualify for these programs, the student must take intense courses during their undergraduate path such as; biology, psychology, chemistry, physics, human anatomy, and physiology.
Once the student has completed their DPT program they must pass a national and state licensing exam to be able to practice as a physical therapist. Individuals seeking to become neuro physiotherapy must meet even stricter and more specialized requirements. They must complete 2000 hours of neurological clinical practice with patients who have a neurological based disorder, sit for and pass a neurological clinical specialist examination and obtain a special certificate in neuro physiotherapy by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties.
Seeing a physical therapist to regain use of your body may be an emotional process for many people. Some may even be ashamed that they were once able to feed themselves, but now they must re-learn this skill although they are a full-grown adult. These professionals choose neuro physiotherapy because they genuinely care and want to help each patient that they can. They have dedicated a large part of their lives to study and become specially trained to provide the best level of care with the highest amount of patience and compassion. Not only will they help you physically regain control of your life, they will help you gain control of your life mentally and come back even stronger than before.
Benefits from Neuro Physiotherapy
After suffering from an injury, illness, or defect that damages a person’s brain, spine, or nervous system they very often find that life becomes drastically different. People commonly find themselves with a loss of their range of motion, muscle weakness, loss of motor control, loss of balance and stamina. In some cases, a person may need assistance in becoming accustomed to an assisting device or a prosthetic if a limb has been lost.
These are all highly unfortunate, but common complications that follow neurological disorders, injuries, or severe illness. Many times, it is sudden, one minute a person is enjoying a laugh with family and friends and the next they suffer a severe stroke only to find that they have lost the ability to use a part of their body, such as their arm or their leg. Neuro physiotherapy can help give a person their life back, often a person may find themselves relying on others to make it through daily routines that they once completed with ease. This can take a tremendous toll on the persons mental health and their view on life. The benefits of neuro physiotherapy go far beyond just helping someone physically, it gives them a new outlook on life. Individuals who suffer from injuries and disorders relating to the brain such as a stroke often find themselves experiencing mental health symptoms. The most common being depression-like symptoms, this is known as post-stroke depression. Individuals may experience a variety of symptoms such as;
- Persistent sadness or anxiousness
- Sleep pattern issues
- Change in appetite
- Constant feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities
- Mood swings
- Constant lethargy
- Inability to concentrate
- Suicidal thoughts
These symptoms are not only common of individuals who suffer from a stroke, but also those who suffer from other disorders of the brain and nervous system. These symptoms are common in those who experience sudden illness such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and those who suddenly lose a limb in an accident. Neuro physiotherapy combined with other cognitive and emotional therapy can help these people improve their lives.
The patients who have experienced trauma may not be the only ones who see improvements in their life through neuro physiotherapy, but their loved ones may see a difference as well. When a person goes through a traumatic event, they’re not the only ones affected. Their family feels it just as hard because now the whole dynamic has changed. Spouses, mothers, fathers, children all feel the impact of a loved one’s pain. It is especially taxing on a family if it is the provider who has suffered a life-altering trauma. Even more, stress is put on the family if someone has now found themselves with added responsibility or is required to provide direct care for the member who has suffered. Neuro physiotherapy can help with all these consequences, by helping the individual regain movement and control, they help to empower both the family and the patient. With an increased gain of control, the patient may be able to live a more independent life which can decrease the stress on those tasked to be a caretaker. The patient may even be able to return to work once the needed improvement is had and this can reduce the amount of financial stress on a family.
Neuro physiotherapy Conclusion
Neuro physiotherapy is a specialization of physical therapy, it aims in treating patients who have experienced traumas, illness, or other issues that are neurological in nature and affect areas such as the brain, spinal cord, and the nerves. When patients suffer from unfortunate events that take a toll on their neurological health they very often experience trouble physically using some parts of their body.
The neuro-physio therapist is responsible for helping the patient reinstate their range of motion, balance, muscle strength and control, and gain control of their lives again. While it’s not a direct aim of therapy, neuro-physio therapists also help their patients by improving their mental state. When a patient suffers an abrupt life-changing injury, one that makes using a crucial part of their bodies such as their leg, arm, or hand, their outlook on life may drastically change. By helping the patient regain control of their life and lessen their dependence on others the therapist also helps the person regain meaning and purpose in their life. This can dramatically improve their thoughts on life, themselves, and better their mental health overall.
Neuro physiotherapy is performed by highly trained professionals with years of schooling. The process of becoming a neuro physiotherapist is both extraordinarily difficult and competitive. These professionals aim in making your life easier, and your recovery as effective and painless as possible. It is understandable that it may be embarrassing or upsetting to have to learn how to walk again, or re-learn basic things such as writing your name, feeding yourself, or tying your shoes. However, these offices and practices are judgment-free zones full of people ready to greet you with nothing but respect, patience, and a determination to give you control over your life back.
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I am a 25-year-old graduate of The College of Staten Island with a B.S in psychology. I have a keen interest in the study of psychology with respect to mental health issues such as; ADHD, depression, anxiety, OCD, and other mental health issues that afflict people day-to-day. I am also interested in exploring the numerous ways in which psychology can improve the lives of individuals with and without mental health issues. I intend to study for my masters in psychology and go on to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with an emphasis on neuropsychology.