Anya Jones, November 2018
A friend recently asked me if Neuro Physiotherapy is much different to standard Physiotherapy. A year after surgery to remove a brain tumour left me with some significant impairments and mobility challenges, I feel I have come far enough along the journey of rehabilitation to be able to answer the question from my own perspective.
There are the obvious differences of what is being treated and retrained; damage to the central nervous system versus muscles, joints and peripheral nerves, however for me the main thing I am now certain of is that Neuro Physiotherapy is completely different to Muscular Skeletal (MSK) Physiotherapy in an unexpected way.
For those of us that have had MSK Physiotherapy at some point in our lives, by mid-life probably most of us, the concept of going to a Physio session for treatment and then being given some exercises to take away and do at home is familiar. However, if we are honest many of those exercises didn’t get done with the regularity and persistence requested by our Physios, even with the best of intentions (or at least that was true for me). Physio became a separate distinct element in our lives; we went to Physio to get treated, or we set aside time in which to do our Physio exercises to improve recovery. Whilst Neuro Physiotherapy has some definite parallels to this in that I see my therapist, take away exercises to practice between sessions, in my experience the fundamental difference is that I’m never really out of Neuro Physiotherapy as a part of my rehabilitation, it’s become integrated into every day life. With each daily activity I undertake I’m in Physio practising something I now struggle to do. For me it has been bending down to pick my daughters toys off the floor trying to keep to the straight line patterning my body just didn’t want to do anymore, forcing my left side that had been left weak from the damage to my brain to engage as I tried to take the next step up the stairs, trying to sit up straight or to stand in a position that wasn’t letting my body compensate, making myself look from side to side walking around the house falling into walls as my balance faltered, trying to use my weak arm as much as I could during dinner even though it was twice as hard and it didn’t always want to play ball which could get messy at times…..
For me, experiencing fundamental changes in the way my body could move resulting from damage to my brain was frightening, frustrating and devastating in equal measures. And always will be to some extent I think. But refocusing on my body’s movements in the everyday has been an instrumental part of my rehabilitation to date, and makes feel feel positive in the knowledge that I’m continuously working with my brain to help it to do as much as it possibly can. Even now a year on in every daily activity I do I find myself challenging my brain to do something it finds difficult. I respect and admire my brain in a way I never did before. I find myself talking to it, encouraging it, praising it when it manages a movement it couldn’t do easily weeks ago - something I definitely didn’t do to my injured shoulder!