Physical Therapy News Letter June 20, 2016

The Leg is Artificial but the Willpower is Real

The ability to sit, stand and walk comes naturally to adults. The movement of the leg during normal gait involves a complex sequence of events involving the hip, knee and ankle joints.

In the case of an accident or disease, the use of an artificial limb or 'prosthesis' may be required. This is a major adjustment for the human body. Physical therapy is critical during this life changing transition. The patient is taught to use, manage and care for the residual limb, and treat it like an extension of the body. The use of such devices in children requires careful attention and the services of specialized pediatric physical therapists. Young patients are typically more amenable to robotics and similar advancements, but skilled care to ensure proper development of the spine while maintaining balance is critical.

Therapists teach patients to perform everyday tasks that others take for granted, from bathing and cooking to transferring in and out of bed. Therapists provide guidance on environmental adaptations that make mobility easier, while reducing injuries and the risk of falling.

Overcoming all Odds

Efficient, pain-free movement with prosthetics requires the services of a licensed physical therapist. The scope of therapy is significant, and it extends well beyond the physical and neurological domain.

The presence of 'phantom pain' (presence of pain in a body part that doesn't exist) affects mobility and progress. The inability of patients to feel sensations or altered sensations and motions is a major challenge for the patient to overcome. Every person responds differently to a prosthetic. Coping with the emotional and environmental factors is a critical element in the rehabilitation process.

A therapist helps improve the emotional and psychological state of the patient. Despair and even depression are common in patient using prosthetics, and physical therapists provide emotional support, encouragement, and motivation. Physical therapy prepares patients for success and independence.

The Will and the Way

Physical therapists use a variety of tools to promote quality of life and prevent falls. The use of mirrors to provide instant feedback reinforces the correct movement patterns and builds confidence. Therapeutic massage, dry needling, and acupuncture are effective for relieving real and phantom pain and preparing the limb for a prosthetic. These methods reduce stress, anxiety, and elevate mood, along with stimulating circulation to the affected anatomy. Patients learn self-massage techniques for desensitizing the limb, improving muscle control and preparing for movement.

Adjusting to a new center of gravity requires some degree of 'relearning' movement. Improving core and pelvic strength are essential for stability, balance, and coordination.

Gait training maintains proper movement and body alignment. Advanced technology helps physical therapists identify the slightest variances and challenges in normal gait. As your physical therapists, we will always stand by you, and assist you and your loved ones to enjoy the benefits of pain-free movement. Helping you achieve your full potential is what we do, and it's our privilege to help you get there. Thank you, and we look forward to working with you. After all, when there is a will, there's a way.