Neurological damage, while often debilitating, does not necessarily mean the end of a person's independence. And as the population ages the number of people living with these conditions is on the rise. However, treatments for the likes of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are getting more research funding thrown at them, which is why treatments, such as neurological physiotherapy are also on the increase.
Neurological damage does not have to be a progressive problem that results in a steady deterioration of mobility and motor function over time. It can come about as the result of a one-off event - such as a stroke or severe head trauma. So treating the resultant symptoms with neurological physiotherapy can be a hugely varied process. Reduced mobility or chronic pain can often be ongoing problems - particularly if the neurological damage was sudden, as is the case in stroke patients.
Fortunately, neurological physiotherapy is a versatile treatment and can be tailored to benefit patients with any number of neurological disorders, including both young and old sufferers. So, while nerve damage can often set people back physically, neurological physiotherapy can help maintain patients' levels of physical activity and quality of life.
What can neurological physiotherapy specialists offer?
There are a huge variety of neurological conditions that can impact on people during their lifetimes - such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Cerebral Palsy and muscular dystrophy. And the way these conditions manifest themselves can be different from patient to patient. As a result, neurological physiotherapy programmes are equally varied.
Ongoing neurological rehabilitation programmes generally start with a thorough assessment of a person's neurological health. Trained neurological physiotherapists will be able to assess a condition on a symptomatic basis - taking account of which aspects of mobility are affected. Muscle strength and general physical fitness will also be monitored.
After all underlying problems and symptoms have been identified, a tailored neurological physiotherapy programme can be created. This will revolve around muscle strengthening, stretching, balance activities and postural awareness. Depending on the problems being remedied, walking exercises and respiratory techniques may also be incorporated in the neurological physiotherapy programme.
What does a neurological physiotherapy programme involve?
As mentioned above, neurological physiotherapy programmes are tailored to each individual and are generally used to address specific mobility or muscle problems. This means a neurological therapy programme can incorporate any number of individual exercises.
In terms of boosting muscle strength and physical endurance, simple stretching exercises, weight bearing training and a steady, graded exercise routine can help boost fitness over time. The key to muscle strengthening - particularly among people who have reduced muscle control - is a simple, consistent and long-standing exercise programme.
Depending on the severity of an individual's problems, the neurological physiotherapy programme may be hugely simplified and involve simple standing and sitting exercises. Some patients receive gait re-education, allowing them to regain their mobility and independence.
With other neurological conditions, muscle strength is not necessarily impacted upon, but range of movement and stability is. Often, treatments dealing with these issues revolve around balance and coordination exercises.
There is also an emphasis on sensory treatments in some neurological physiotherapy programmes, which can include hot and cold treatments and surroundings awareness programmes.
The key to successful neurological physiotherapy
The secret to successful neurological physiotherapy programmes is an accurate and thorough initial assessment. Identifying problem areas that can be effectively targeted with tailored treatment is a must. Once a clear evaluation has been conducted then a unique exercise regime can be created.
One of the other key aspects of neurological physiotherapy is ensuring their regularity. Regaining motor control and boosting muscle strength is a timely process that requires a lot of commitment - from both patients and their physiotherapists. But the outward benefits of neurological physiotherapy make this commitment much easier to maintain.