Neurological diseases affect the brain, spinal cord and nerves throughout the body and this can lead to difficult moving, speaking, swallowing, breathing or learning. There are more than 600 types of neurological diseases, the most frequent of which are stroke, brain and spinal cord injuries and Parkinson’s disease. Approximately 50,000 Canadians have a stroke each year; 75% of those surviving are left with some level of disability. Physiotherapy for stroke survivors is an integral part of their rehabilitation treatment plan. As members of stroke teams,
physiotherapists address physical function issues and prevention of subsequent strokes, which are key determinants of quality of life.
If you are suffering from a neurological disease your physiotherapist can help to maximize and restore your physical function and can set up a personalized exercise program that includes a balance component to maximize your physical function. Additionally, physiotherapists can provide education to those with neurological conditions about the specifics of the brain and how it relates to their care. By working with a physiotherapist and following the Physio-4 for Neurological Conditions, neurological patients can improve their quality of life and keep moving for life.
1. Teach your weak side.
If you have weakness in the muscles on one side of your body (due to stroke) or face (facial palsy), use the unaffected side to teach the weak side how it should feel and move. Your physiotherapist can provide exercises to stretch and relax muscles to decrease tightness, strengthen the weak side, and share ways to avoid overcompensating with the unaffected side.
2. Get dizzy.
If you have problems with dizziness and balance (eg. vestibular), making you a bit dizzy can be part of the treatment. Keep moving, realizing that the movement will help you get better. Avoid keeping your head still. Your physiotherapist will show you how.
3. Build strength.
Many people with neurological conditions lack strength and endurance, which can also affect balance. A physiotherapist can create an individualized exercise program that can be done in the home or at a community centre that include these components, as well as walking aids to ensure safety indoors and out. Your physiotherapist can also recommend cardiovascular training (like using an exercise bike) for optimal heart health.
4. Practice repetitive sensory input.
For a patient with a neurological condition (eg. Parkinson’s), it is important to have repetitive sensory input to “remind” the brain about movement pathways. An example of this type of exercise would be doing repetitive step-ups on an aerobic step. This helps the brain to remember to lift the heel to clear the floor while walking. Your physiotherapist will help you engage in safe activity to promote neurological recovery and your confidence.
Physiotherapists are the rehabilitation specialists recommended most by physicians. They are university-educated health professionals who work with patients of all ages to diagnose and treat virtually any mobility issue. Physiotherapists provide care for orthopedic issues such as sport and workplace injuries, as well as cardiorespiratory and neurological conditions. As Canada's most physically active health professionals, BC's physiotherapists know how to keep British Columbians moving for life.