The central nervous system- comprised of the brain and the spinal cord- forms the power plant and supply in the human body. The brain cortex contains the areas responsible for movement, sensation, speech, language and memory. Signals from these centers to the rest of the body and from the different body parts to the brain are carried by the peripheral nerves which relay them to the spinal cord. Cells of the central nervous system possess a special feature that if they die they are irreplaceable. This means that once cells of the CNS die, their function is lost. Cells of the central nervous system die if they do not receive enough blood supply which is seen in strokes. Other diseases alter cells’ function (for example Parkinson disease, Multiple Sclerosis, tumors, etc.). The result of this damage is paralysis or weakness of muscles, loss of coordination and\or loss of balance. Symptoms depend on the size and the site of damage. Injuries to the spinal cord due to Motor Vehicle Accidents, falls or tumors also result in loss or compromised function at or below the level of injury.
Physiotherapy helps patients with neurological disorders regain lost function(s). While physiotherapy does not reverse the damage caused by disease, it aims to utilize purposeful, task-oriented exercises to stimulate healthy brain cells to take over the function of the affected cells. This capability of the brain to adapt and change is known as neuroplasticity. By neuroplasticity the brain forms new connections to compensate for lost ones. Through exercises, education, and advice, physiotherapists work with patients in designing specific interventions tailored to each patient’s needs in order to achieve their goals and maintain their health.
Accordingly, the physiotherapy session for a patient with neurologic disorder may include:
- Task-specific exercises determined by patient’s needs and capabilities aiming to regain specific functions that are important to the patient
- Balance training exercises to improve the patients confidence in different positions and reduce the risk of falls
- Exercises to improve the patient’s walking speed and the ability to move around independently in different setting
- Strengthening and elongation techniques to different muscles
- Advices to the patients and their care-takers on home exercises and ways to manage their disease in every-day life
- Use of specific modalities (such as electrical stimulation) or assistive devices (such as leg braces) to improve function