Can Physical Therapy Help Brain Injury?
March is brain injury awareness month. A traumatic brain injury (also known as TBI) occurs as a result of trauma to the head, leading to damage to the brain itself. Traumatic brain injuries can result from numerous types of injuries including automobile accidents, contact sports, or falls. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe; ranging from headaches and general confusion to partial paralysis and loss of sensation. In fact, any injury to the brain is a serious condition that requires hospitalization and immediate medical attention.
A mild TBI may be associated with a change in the mental state of the individual or a short-term loss of consciousness. A severe TBI may result in a coma, memory loss and loss of muscle control. Over a period of time, this can cause loss of muscle strength and a deterioration of balance, which can lead to falls.
Although the severity of a brain injury can vary immensely, the importance of physical therapy cannot be overstated. Some brain injuries may require a few weeks of rehabilitation; while severe injuries can require several months of neurological re-education under the supervision of an experienced physical therapist.
Five Benefits of Physical Therapy in Traumatic Brain Injury
Every instance of TBI is unique and different and a physical therapist can conduct a detailed evaluation to determine the extent of impairment. This initial evaluation will help determine extent of sensation, consciousness, body awareness, memory, muscle tone, movement, balance and gait.
Based on the evaluation, the physical therapist may design a program consisting of neuro-developmental training, joint mobilization, functional training and self-stretching exercises. The five most common benefits of physical therapy include:
- Memory assessment and improvement.
- Motor function and muscle strength increase.
- Improved responsiveness to sensation and awareness of the surrounding.
- Lifestyle counseling to enhance independence with daily activities
- Improved balance to facilitate standing and walking.
With brain injury, time is of the essence. Don't delay – seek medical attention and start working with a physical therapist as soon as possible.
It's All In Your Brain
A brain injury has the potential to affect the quality of life and limit the individual’s ability to do simple things. Expect your physical therapist to work closely with other members of the healthcare team to improve your 'brain health' and speed up the recovery process.
The goal is to help the individual resume full function in a gradual, controlled manner under the supervision of the physical therapist. Your therapist can recondition your brain and nervous system, bridging the gap between medical intervention and full recovery.
The bottom line - physical therapy treatment will help regain function and improve quality of life. As your physical therapists, there is a lot that we can do a lot for you; including boosting your 'brain health'.
If you’re a sports fan, you've probably heard of ACL injuries but do you know how they are treated? In a nutshell, an ACL injury is a tear in the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), which is a ligament inside the knee that connects your upper leg and lower leg. It helps keep the knee stable. ACL injuries can range from minor injuries to complete tears, which can cause severe pain and immobility.
What causes ACL injuries?
ACL injuries are common in contact sports, especially football and soccer. If your foot is planted on the ground and something causes your knee to bend backward, twist, or move from side to side, your ACL could tear. Jumping and other sudden movements can also damage the ACL. Therefore, skiers and runners are at risk for ACL tears too. An ACL tear can affect any athlete. In fact, the NASCAR title favorite Denny Hamlin tore his ACL playing baseball, as reported by the Associated Press on January 26, 2010.
Individuals who do not engage in contact sports could also suffer from an ACL injury as a result of falling off a ladder or twisting their knee while climbing stairs. As with the rest of our bodies, the ACL gets weaker and more prone to injury with age, making individuals over 40 at a greater risk for injury.
How will I know if I have an ACL injury?
Typically, the first sign of an ACL injury is moderate to severe knee pain, but there are other symptoms as well:
- A popping noise or sensation in the knee when the injury happens
- Severe knee swelling within the first hour or two after the injury, which could indicate bleeding inside the knee
- The inability to move your knee because of the pain, swelling, or both
- An incredibly unstable feeling in your knee when you try to walk, or if it buckles or gives out on you
Remember, don’t let it go untreated. If you do, you can cause more damage to your knee joint. So be sure to make an appointment with your doctor or physical therapist if you suspect an ACL injury.
I found this video about total hip replacement. It gives good information about the procedure and the reasons that someone might undergo the surgery. The video notes that physical therapy is a key to recovery.
Human balance is very important in performance and safety during functional activities. Maintaining your balance is a complex process that uses sensory information to create muscle responses to keep you from falling.
There are 3 basic components that affect your balance:
1. The Vestibular System: Complex mechanism in the inner ear that controls balance by monitoring the position of your head.
2. The Visual System: Uses input from your eyes to detect the changes in the floor surface.
3. The Somatosensory/Proprioception System: Uses sensory input from your lower extremities to give your brain feedback about the floor.
How do these systems affect your balance?
If you have an inner ear disturbance, such as an infection, it causes your body to react incorrectly when your head position changes. This will present as dizziness during movement.
If you have visual impairment, you might have difficulty detecting changes in the ground surfaces during low light situations, such as going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
If you have sensation problems in your feet, such as neuropathy, you will not get accurate feedback to your brain about the ground surface.
Why is this important and can physical therapy help?
Knowing which of these 3 systems might be impaired can help physical therapists set up the plan of care. For example, a patient who has diabetic neuropathy in his feet relies heavily on the vestibular and vision systems to maintain balance. It would be important for this patient to know that he should turn a light on if he needs to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. This will reduce his risk for falling.
Understanding the 3 systems also helps physical therapists improve balance. One way to improve balance is to improve the function of the impaired system. There are specific techniques to improve vestibular function and proprioception/balance training can improve lower extremity feedback.
Another way to improve balance is by compensating to enhance the function of the systems already working well. For example, proprioception activities, such as standing on one leg or standing with eyes closed, can teach the body to rely more on sensory feedback from the legs. This can be very helpful in a patient who has difficulty with vision in low light.
Understanding and training these 3 components of balance, can greatly improve balance and reduce fall risk.
I found this great animated video that demonstrates how total knee replacements are performed. It should help you understand the procedure better and give some clues about why physical therapy is so important.