You may know of somebody who has had a neurological condition, or you might be reading this because it is you suffering. You are probably wondering what physiotherapy can do when part of your brain is injured. How can physiotherapy help movement, mobility and function? You might be questioning whether you might be wasting your time and money on physiotherapy if you may never get better.
Well let me answer your questions as to what the theory is that justifies physiotherapy treatment for neurological injury. In order to understand the theory you need to know the structure of the neurological system. To simplify how the body works, your brain and the spinal cord make up the central nervous system (CNS) and the nerves feeding the rest of the body make up the peripheral nervous system (PNS). Electrical impulses travel back and forth, as you can see below.
The electrical impulses actually travel through your nerves, which are made up of very small neurons.
Now lets come to the crunch. You want to know how physiotherapy helps neurological injuries! What actually happens???
Your brain rewires!!!
This is a process called neuroplasticity whereby your brain is able to compensate for an injury by reorganizing itself. These neurons sprout new nerve endings and make new connections with other neurons according to the input generated by activity and learning. Physiotherapy and exercise helps stimulate this process.
We know that in the presence of inactivity, neurons stop functioning and will eventually die. Activity is therefore essential in keeping these neurons alive and is a necessary component of recovery.
Muscles that waste away following an injury can be rebuilt!!!
It is important to bear in mind that after having a neurological injury, you not only need to focus on rewiring the neurological system, but you also need to think about the musculoskeletal system. It is common after a prolonged period of immobility, you develop tight muscles and the muscles also waste away.
Muscles however have the potential to be lengthened through stretches and can be rebuilt through strengthening exercises
Overall by targeting the neurological system (your nerves) and the musculoskeletal system (your muscles), physiotherapy is proven to help treat neurological conditions. This is how movement comes back, how people learn to walk again…
Written by Hily Perpinyal, Chartered Physiotherapist