Therapist

What does a neuro therapist do

About This Treatment

Franciscan Health’s physical therapists are specially trained in the treatment of individuals with neurological disorders and are dedicated to utilizing the most recent, evidenced-based treatments and assistive technologies, allowing each patient to engage in meaningful and purposeful activities of daily life.

Following a diagnosis, one of our therapists will do a comprehensive evaluation of function and issues related to maintaining function and independence. Our treatment approach is individually tailored to address specific problem areas and designed to help patients achieve their maximal functional potential.

A neurologically-trained physical therapist specializes in the evaluation and treatment of individuals with movement problems related to disease or injury of the nervous system. Therapists can help a patient regain some to most of the functions they lost because of an injury, enabling the patient to live independently again.

Therapists who specialize in neurology work with a wide range of patients who may have one of the following conditions:

  • Stroke
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Brain injury
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome

How neurological physical therapy improves quality of life

The nervous system is a complex, sophisticated system that regulates and controls all the workings of your body. When something goes wrong with a part of your nervous system, you can have trouble moving, speaking, swallowing, breathing, or learning. You can also have problems with your memory, senses, or mood.

Physical therapy is extremely important for patients who have had or who currently have neurological diseases or injuries. Without physical therapy following a neurological injury, patients may lose many functions, may be unable to perform certain activities, or may lose their independence. Decreased activity can lead to many other health problems such as heart problems, lung problems, and diabetes.

Could physical therapy improve your nervous system disorder or injury?

Neurological Physical TherapyIf a part of the body gets injured your doctor may recommend going to physical therapy to improve and restore strength and function back into the injured muscle, ligament or tendon. The same theory holds true for the brain. The brain, just like anything else in your body, may require physical therapy if something has inflicted damage on the nervous system. Our Brooklyn, NY, neurologist Dr. Anna Kogan is here to explain how neurological physical therapy could help restore nervous system function.

What is a neurological physical therapist?

Just as a physical therapist specializes in treating patients dealing with movement issues due to injury or disease, neurological physical therapy helps treat and manage the symptoms of those dealing with nervous system damage to improve mobility and how a person functions in day-to-day life.

What problems can neurological physical therapy address?

Our Brooklyn, NY, neurological physical therapist can help patients dealing with a wide range of problems due to nervous system disorders or injuries. Some conditions that can benefit from neurological physical therapy include:

  • Spinal cord or brain injuries (central nervous system injuries)
  • Stroke
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome

This specialized form of physical therapy can also help patients with balance issues to prevent falls and other potential injuries. Patients of all ages can benefit from neurological physical therapy, from children dealing with central nervous system damage to senior citizens having trouble with balance due to nervous system disorders.

One major benefit of neurological physical therapy is that our doctor can help improve and even restore mobility in a patient who is currently dealing with neurological damage. We will perform a thorough medical evaluation and discuss your symptoms in-depth during your first visit and from that we will create a comprehensive treatment plan that will work for you for the long term. Plus, physical therapy could end up eliminating the need for more invasive treatments or surgeries in the future.

What does neurological physical therapy entail?

There are a wide variety of treatment options that can be used to improve a patient’s mobility. Some of these options include self-care and at-home exercises, exercises to improve flexibility and strength, treadmill training, as well as neuromuscular re-education and motor retraining. Your physical therapy program will be tailored to meet your specific needs and treatment goals.

The Neurology Center of New York in Brooklyn, NY is dedicated to providing a full range of therapeutic and physical therapy services to patients dealing with many different neurological conditions and injuries. If a neurological problem is affecting your daily life then call our office today to schedule an evaluation. Let’s find out how neurological physical therapy could help.

Neurological Physical Therapy encompasses specialized comprehensive evaluation and treatment of individuals with movement problems due to disease or injury of the nervous system.

Advanced Physical Therapy provides individualized one on one treatment with primary focus on restoring function and improving overall quality of life.

Commonly Treated Conditions Include:

  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Guillain Barre Syndrome
  • Ataxia
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Polyneuropathies
  • Progressive neurological conditions
  • Spasticity/tone

Neurological physical therapy is extremely important for those patients who have had or who currently have neurological diseases or injuries. The brain and spinal cord and the central nervous system control movement and sensation. Injuries to these areas, the brain or spinal cord can cause death of the cells that control certain movements and sensations, and therefore people lose function. Without neurological physical therapy following a neurological injury, patients may lose many functions and not be able to perform certain activities. Decreased intensity of activity leads to many other health problems such as diabetes, heart problems, lung problems, decreased independence, and an overall poor quality of life.

Following the neurological disorder or injury, there is a certain amount of time when the cells that are not injured in the brain and spinal cord can learn to control the missing functions. Physical therapists are very well-informed about human movement and can teach patients how to move correctly again. This skilled assistance can help patients regain some to most of the functions they lost because of the injury. Most of the patients can learn to live their lives independently again, which makes them happier with their lives and contributes to their overall quality of life.

Neurological Physical Therapy Treatment

  • Restore range of motion
  • Improve functional movement and strength
  • Gait Training
  • Postural re-alignment
  • Improve safety of transfers and mobility
  • Balance re-training and decrease risk of fall
  • Core stabilization
  • Activities of Daily Living (ADL) performance
  • Visual Perceptual Skill retraining
  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Improve motor planning and motor control
  • Decrease spasticity/tone
  • Prosthesis/orthoses training
  • Equipment evaluation/recommendation to include wheelchairs, cane, walkers or crutches

Neurological physical therapy is aimed at restoring functional mobility, strength, balance, and coordination in people with neurological conditions that affect their quality of life and ability to move. Neurological physical therapy can help people recover from neurological injuries or prevent the progression and worsening of chronic neurological conditions. 

physical therapist assisting elderly woman walking in parallel bars

chee gin tan / Getty Images

Uses

Neurological physical therapy is geared toward treating patients with conditions affecting the brain and spinal cord, such as stroke, spinal cord injury, and Parkinson’s disease, to help them function as best as possible. Neurological physical therapy is performed in hospitals, private practice physical therapy clinics, doctors’ offices, rehabilitation facilities, or at home.

Process

If you need neurological physical therapy, you may be treated either on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Inpatient therapy takes place in a facility such as a hospital or rehabilitation center, where you will stay overnight. Outpatient treatment is typically performed at physical therapy clinics or at an outpatient rehabilitation center at a hospital.

Whether you need inpatient or outpatient physical therapy will depend on the severity of your neurological condition. 

Newly acquired neurological conditions such as strokes or traumas like spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) often require inpatient rehabilitation. Once the patient gains enough strength, coordination, and independence with movements like standing and walking, they can progress to outpatient physical therapy.

After your physical therapist has gathered enough information about your medical history during your initial evaluation, you will undergo a physical exam. The therapist will check your muscle strength, coordination, range of motion, reflexes, and the muscle tone of your arms and legs.

Your general level of attention, cognition, and sensation will be assessed as well to determine if these areas have been affected by your neurological condition.

Your physical therapist will then assess your ability to perform movements called transfers, which are transitions to and from different positions such as from lying down to sitting up or from standing up to sitting. The therapist will note if you can perform these movements on your own or if you need assistance.

Your initial evaluation will also include an assessment of your balance, quality of gait (how you walk), and whether you need assistance from your physical therapist. Your therapist may provide you with—or recommend that you purchase—an assistive device to help with walking, depending on the severity of your neurological condition. 

Your physical therapist may also perform neurological tests to examine your coordination, such as following moving objects with your eyes, touching your finger to your nose, and rapidly alternating movements.

Physical Therapy for Dizziness or Vertigo

If you have been experiencing dizziness or have been diagnosed with vertigo (the sensation that you or your surroundings are moving or spinning), you may be referred to a vestibular specialist, who will provide you with vestibular therapy. Your body’s vetibular system includes parts of your inner ear and brain that help you control your balance and eye movements.

Your treatment plan will differ from other forms of neurological physical therapy as the treatment will focus on reducing your dizziness and vertigo symptoms and improving your tolerance of certain positions and activities that normally make your symptoms worse.

During your neurological physical therapy sessions, you may receive the following interventions:

  • Gait training to improve your ability to walk, including proper instruction on the use of assistive devices such as crutches, canes, and walkers
  • Balance training to improve your static (stationary) and dynamic (while moving) balance, both sitting unsupported to improve your core control and standing upright with or without using handheld support
  • Therapeutic activities to improve independence with bed mobility skills like rolling and sitting up from lying down, and transfers on and off beds, chairs, and toilets
  • Therapeutic exercises for stretching and strengthening muscles and improving coordination and motor control
  • Endurance training with cardiovascular equipment like treadmills, stationary bicycles, and ellipticals
  • Vestibular therapy interventions to improve control of eye movements, balance exercises with head movements, and exercises to treat a common cause of dizziness (Dix-Hallpike and Epley maneuvers)

Conditions Treated

Neurological physical therapy can treat a variety of conditions, whether recently acquired or chronic. Some neurological conditions are progressive, getting worse over time, and require regular physical therapy and at-home exercises to maintain optimal well-being.

Neurological conditions that can be treated with physical therapy include:

  • Strokes (loss of blood supply to the brain)
  • Spinal cord injuries (damage to part of the central nervous system resulting in loss of movement and control)
  • Traumatic brain injuries (such as concussion)
  • Multiple sclerosis (a disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord)
  • Parkinson’s disease (a progressive nervous system disorder)
  • Cerebral palsy (a group of disorders affecting movement, balance, and posture)
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome (an autoimmune disease attacking the nerves)
  • Polyneuropathies (damage to the peripheral nerves)
  • Vertigo, including benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)

Frequently Asked Questions

How does physical therapy help with neurological problems?

Physical therapy helps people with neurological problems by increasing their use of muscles that are weak; improving their motor control, coordination, and balance; and facilitating their independence with daily tasks and movements.

Why would someone need neurological physical therapy?

A person would need neurological physical therapy after an injury or illness affecting the brain and spinal cord. Physical therapy helps people recover, regain their strength and movement, and improve their abilities to perform daily tasks as they recover or as their illness progresses. Neurological conditions can occur suddenly, such as from an accident, or be progressive, such as with Parkinson’s disease.

What does a physical therapy neurological test assess?

A physical therapy neurological test assesses coordination of body parts and motor control between the brain and muscles. This helps determine if the signals being sent to the brain are reaching the muscles quickly and efficiently and are functioning properly. 

How do you become a neurological physical therapist?

All physical therapists who graduate from an accredited physical therapy program acquire training in treating neurological conditions. Anyone wishing to specialize in neurological physical therapy can pursue a specialty certification as a neurological clinical specialist (NCS). You must complete 2,000 hours of treatment with patients with neurological conditions and pass an additional board exam.

Summary

Neurological physical therapy can help you with mobility and balance issues caused by neurological conditions. Depending on how severe your condition is, you may receive this therapy as an inpatient or an outpatient. Participating in this type of physical therapy can help you maintain your independence even if your condition worsens and makes everyday movements more difficult.

A Word From Verywell

Neurological physical therapy can be extremely beneficial for anyone who has been diagnosed with a neurological condition, whether recently acquired or chronic. Physical therapists work with patients to gain strength and functioning. Exercises can help you improve your mobility, gain independence, and decrease your need for assistance from others—all of which can lead to an improved quality of life.

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