What is Neurological Physiotherapy?

What is a neuro physio? When should you see one? – Neurological Physiotherapy (neuro physio) is the area within physiotherapy that specialises in Neurological Conditions. These conditions can include, but are not limited to:

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Aneurysm
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Huntington Disease
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Brain Tumours
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Spina Bifida
  • Motor Neuron Disease
  • Brachial Plexus Injury
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries

A Neurological Physiotherapist is someone who has received additional training in these areas (through experience and study). The focus of Neurological Physiotherapy is to re-learn functional tasks and movements to improve quality of life and independence.

We move our bodies by sending a signal from our brain to our nerves and then out to the muscles, resulting in the contraction of the muscle and the movement of a limb. When damage occurs to the brain, spinal cord or nerves, the signals may not get through to the muscles. There are many ways that damage can occur to these areas (resulting in neurological injury), either through an accident (e.g. motor vehicle accident causing a traumatic brain injury) or disease process (e.g. multiple sclerosis). 

When should you see a neuro physio?

Anyone diagnosed with any neurological condition would benefit from seeing a neurological physiotherapist. During an initial assessment, the physiotherapist will complete an assessment, looking at how your muscles are contracting, how you are completing functional everyday tasks (e.g. walking, stairs, getting in/out of a chair, getting in/out of bed) and analyse your movement patterns. They also look at any abnormal movements or spasms you might be experiencing and how this is affecting your movement. Goals will be discussed during the assessment and a plan will be developed in collaboration with everyone involved, working towards the individual’s goals. Every individual diagnosed with a neurological condition will present with different symptoms and goals so all of our programs are individualised and client-centred. A Neurological Physiotherapist will apply different principles when developing treatment plans. These include neuroplasticity, strength, and endurance-based training principles and task-specific training principles.

There are many neurological conditions that will progress slower if the client is participating in regular targeted exercise therapy. A neurological physiotherapist specialises in identifying which exercises are most appropriate for an individual to complete to achieve their goals and maintain their function. An example of this type of neurological condition includes Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease.

Neuro physio image

Stroke and Traumatic Brain Injury are examples of neurological conditions in which the client can continue to improve for many years after the injury occurs. There is a strong body of evidence that indicates that the largest and fastest gains will occur in the first 3-6 months after a stroke, however, improvements are still possible many years later, they are just harder to achieve and slower to occur.

Motor Neuron Disease is an example of a neurological condition where exercise has to potential to be detrimental. However, provided it is targeted and set at the right level, it can also have many positive effects. It is critical that anyone diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease discusses exercise and disease progress with their physiotherapist.

While I have mostly discussed how targeted exercise therapy can help individuals diagnosed with a neurological condition, there are many other ways we can help. Other key areas include equipment prescription and functional task training.

Functional task training teaches a client how to do a task which they are unable to complete or having difficulty completing, improving independence and quality of life. Sometimes this is done through reteaching old movement patterns or teaching new methods to complete the task. This aspect is critical in those diagnosed with spinal cord injuries, strokes and other brain injuries. We can teach a person who can no longer move their legs, how to get out of bed and transfer into a wheelchair independently, or, we can teach a stroke survivor how to walk again – I personally think those things are pretty cool!

A Neurological Physiotherapist might also prescribe aids and equipment specific for your condition and presentation. These vary greatly and are specific to the individual, their presentation and the goals they wish to achieve. 

Finally, a Neurological Physiotherapist works with clients across the spectrum of ability. Did you know that a Neurological Physiotherapist can help you learn how to run again? Or play sport? We can even help you identify new sports or social activities.

Have hope. If you have any questions, please contact me: afreeman@momentumsr.com.au.

Author: Anne Freeman

Meanwhile, anyone can reach out to staff members at (02) 6210 0060 to ask questions or schedule an in-person appointment.