What Does a Neurological Physical Therapist Do?

by Barbara Foster

In people of all ages, injuries, and illnesses can impair the nervous system. An impaired nervous system, in turn, can negatively affect a person's mobility and ability to perform simple daily tasks. In some cases, the individual's way of life is completely altered. Individuals with injuries and disorders of the nervous system can often benefit from neurological rehabilitation; sometimes also referred to as neuro-rehabilitation. In time, this combination of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other disciplines can help individuals improve their mobility and minimize the physical limitations resulting from an impaired nervous system.

What is Neurological Rehabilitation?

Neurological rehabilitation, or neuro-rehabilitation, is a specialized treatment that borrows ideas and techniques from physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other related fields. It is aimed at helping individuals overcome physical limitations from injuries and illnesses affecting the nervous system. Whether someone has sustained a spinal injury from an accident or received a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease or multiple sclerosis, neurological rehabilitation can help them retain and regain independence by reducing symptoms and improving the ability to function. These personalized programs might include exercises aimed at increasing mobility and preventing atrophy, as well as activities to improve focus and memory. Doctors might also recommend their patients use adaptive technology to help them with their daily activities.

  • Principles of Neurological Rehabilitation (PDF)
  • Post-Stroke Rehabilitation Fact Sheet
  • Rehabilitation Therapy after a Stroke
  • What is a Neurological Physical Therapist? How Are They Specially Qualified?

    A neurological physical therapist is someone who has a degree in physical therapy and has specialized in the area of neurology. A Neurological Clinical Specialist (NCS) is someone who has passed a special examination from the American Board of Physical Therapist Specialists. In order to be eligible to take the exam, physical therapists must already be licensed in the United States. They also need to have completed a clinical residency or have experience providing direct patient care in the area of neurology.

    What Conditions Does a Neuro Physical Therapist Treat?

    Neurological rehabilitation is designed to address diminished function in the nervous system resulting from any number of conditions and injuries. For instance, someone who has suffered an injury that affects the nervous system, such as brain damage or a spinal cord injury, might seek help from a neurological physical therapist. Neurological rehabilitation can also benefit individuals living with degenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease). People with infections like meningitis, encephalitis, and polio may also see improvement in their ability to perform daily activities with neurological rehabilitation.

    neurological physical therapist, neurological physical therapy techniques

    How Does Neurological Rehabilitation Work?

    Neurological rehabilitation is a holistic approach to the treatment of individuals with neurological impairments. Typically, a number of specialists from different areas work together to address their patients' needs on a physical, emotional, cognitive, and social level. Together, specialists form unique plans for their patients that might include a combination of specialized physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Some patients are able to regain functions lost due to injury by retraining their brains. Others may learn new and easier ways to execute everyday tasks that take into account their level of mobility. In some cases, electrical equipment can be used to stimulate muscles and facilitate movement. Each individual case requires an individual approach, so neurological rehabilitation will look different depending on the patient's needs.

    What Are Neurological Physical Therapy Techniques?

    There are any number of exercises and activities that might be used in a patient's neurological rehabilitation program. Following a stroke, a patient might perform physical exercises aimed at retraining the brain to perform certain specific tasks, such as reaching, grasping, and walking. Some exercises make use special equipment like exercise balls. In addition, cognitive exercises may be employed to help regain or improve lost functionality. These might consist of word games, reading exercises, or math problems.

    • Arm and Hand Exercises for Stroke Rehab
    • How to Become a Neurological Physical Therapist

      Entering the field of neurological physical therapy requires a lot of hard work and determination. To become a neurological physical therapist, one needs to first get a masters or doctoral degree in physical therapy from an accredited university. After receiving a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) or a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, the individual will need to take exams at the state and national level to become a licensed practitioner. Then, after gaining experience in the specialty of neurology, one can take an examination from the American Board of Physical Therapist Specialists to become a Neurological Clinical Specialist.