Your body does a lot for you each day, but injuries, illness and aging can take a toll on its abilities. Without treatment, you may be left unable to complete daily tasks and do what you enjoy most.
Enter rehabilitation — a way to regain your body's strength, mobility and capabilities. Through the many kinds of rehabilitation, including physical, speech and vestibular, you can reclaim your independence.
The benefits of rehabilitation may go far beyond what you think. While you might envision strength exercises to address an injured knee, stretches to relieve pain or language exercises to improve speech, there are a range of conditions that can improve from rehabilitation.
1. A weak bladder
Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles in your pelvic region that help with bowel movements, urination and sex. Due to injury, childbirth, hormones related to menopause or simply getting older, these muscles can weaken and lead to problems. One of these issues is urinary incontinence.
Urinary incontinence is when you are unable to control the muscles that facilitate urination. Symptoms can range from leaking urine when you sneeze or cough to not making it to the bathroom in time due to a sudden urge to urinate.
"Pelvic floor rehabilitation can improve your symptoms by strengthening your muscles through exercises. Rehab can also help you better coordinate these muscles through biofeedback, where you use special equipment to view the activity of your pelvic floor muscles as you learn how to relax and clench them," says Ruba Nachef, PT, DPT, NCS, supervisor of outpatient therapy at Bryn Mawr Rehab, part of Main Line Health.
2. Vertigo and balance issues
Balancing requires a lot from your body. Your balance is affected by information coming from your joints, your vision and your inner ear. Interestingly, there are tiny organs in your inner ear that send signals to your brain about how your head is moving in relation to your own body and in relation to the outside world. All of that information is processed in your brain and used to maintain your balance and allow you to move around normally.
Inner ear disorders, neurological problems, stroke and head injuries can all throw this system — and you — out of balance. They can also leave you feeling dizzy and nauseous as well as lead to vertigo (feeling like you're spinning when you aren't).
Vestibular rehab can help manage vertigo and balance issues through:
- Visual exercises to improve your ability to maintain gaze while moving
- Neuromuscular re-training to improve proprioceptive awareness and minimize balance deficits
- Virtual Reality training scenarios to help with adaptation to challenging environments like work, community and school
- Home exercises to promote independence
- Education to help you identify dizziness triggers and use strategies to minimize their effects
3. Cognitive function issues
Memory, thinking and organization skills are connected to your speech and language. There are a number of reasons you might face issues with these cognitive abilities, such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and brain tumors.
These problems can lead to difficulty carrying out daily tasks, impaired social skills, trouble at work and concerns of further injury.
"Speech and language therapy can improve your cognitive function through vocabulary, memory, attention, reading and writing exercises," says Ruba. "Your therapist can work with you to develop a plan that supports your individual speech and language development. If needed, you can also learn how to use augmentative communication devices, like communication boards and computerized communication devices."
4. Jaw pain
Jaw pain is a common symptom of a TMJ disorder, which affects the temporomandibular joint that connects your skull to your jawbone. TMJ disorders can also lead to aching around your ear, pain while chewing, facial pain and locking of the joint.
If you're experiencing jaw pain or difficulty related to jaw pain, it might be time to get treatment, which can include physical therapy. Your therapist can guide you in exercises that strengthen and stretch your jaw muscles as well as advise you on at-home treatments, like heat and ice.
5. Phantom limb pain
Limb amputation or limb loss can lead to a condition called phantom limb pain, where you feel pain in the missing body part as if it's real. Pain can be mild and last seconds or it can be severe and last days. Roughly eight out of 10 people who lose a limb have some level of phantom limb pain.
Treatment for phantom limb pain may include rehabilitation therapies, such as:
- Mirror therapy, which includes doing movement exercises in a mirror while you view the intact limb. This causes the brain to think you have two healthy limbs and can reduce phantom limb pain.
- Biofeedback, which includes using special sensors to view your muscles on a screen and make changes to reduce pain.
6. Preparation for surgery
Surgery takes a toll on your body. To recover more quickly, you can make sure your body is in its best shape possible before entering the surgical room.
Prehab — or pre-surgical physical therapy — helps your body prepare for surgery by strengthening muscles and improving range of motion. Prehab can prepare your body for surgeries like joint replacement (like knee and hip replacements) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction.
Rehabilitation for overall wellness
Your body is an intricate machine, and sometimes it needs some extra care. Through exercises designed for your individual symptoms, rehabilitation can help you regain the ability to go about your daily activities without pain and frustration.
Whether through physical, occupational, speech and language, vestibular or another type of rehabilitation, you can ease symptoms and get back to doing what you love.
Make an appointment with Ruba Nachef, PT, DPT, NCS
Learn more about inpatient and outpatient rehabilitative therapy
More than just words: How speech therapy can benefit you