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How Rehabilitation Services Help With Healing

August 9, 2018
What do an ankle injury, inner ear problems, and Parkinson’s disease have in common? People with these three conditions can all benefit from physical therapy. GBMC’s Michael Wah, Director of Physical Therapy, Jessica Abraskin, a Doctor of Physical Therapy and brain injury specialist, and speech language pathologist Jessica Silinonte, who works at the Johns Hopkins Voice Center at GBMC, talked with Mary Beth Marsden and Don Scott about how physical and speech language therapy can help people of all ages get back to do the things they enjoy.

One of the most common conditions physical therapists treat are ankle sprains. And while a sprain might not sound serious, it can be. Explained Michael, “There are three grades of sprains. A grade 3 sprain means that the ligament has been pulled away from the bone and may have even pulled off bone fragments.” Treatment for sprains doesn’t usually involve surgery and if you have a sprain, you can skip your primary care physician’s office and go right to a physical therapist for diagnosis and treatment. “You can start physical therapy within days of a sprain,” added Michael. “It gets the circulation going and speeds up healing.”

Jessica Abraskin noted that while physical therapy can be tough work, you feel better when you’re done and you’re taking an important step to lower your risk of getting another sprain. “In 73% of people with ankle sprains, they will have another sprain if they don’t take part in balance training,” she said.

Jessica also discussed the benefits of vestibular rehabilitation for people living with inner ear problems. Some of the common causes of vestibular system problems include infections and head injuries. “The vestibular system is responsible for our balance and how we relate to the space around us. It’s also a component of vision. When there are problems in this system, you can feel dizzy and have trouble with your balance, which increase your risk of falling,” she explained.

Rehabilitation can also make a significant difference in the lives of people living with Parkinson’s disease. The disease can cause tremors, balance changes, muscle rigidity, a very slow gait, and reduced volume when talking. “It’s not that people with Parkinson’s can’t talk loudly, it’s that they perceive they are talking loud enough to be understood when they’re not,” said Jessica Silinonte. “We retrain them to use their voices in a healthy way so that they can easily be understood. We also work with people who develop problems with eating and swallowing.”

The other key piece of rehabilitation therapy for people with Parkinson’s focuses on movement. As with the voice, it’s not that they can’t move at a normal pace, it’s that they perceive that they’re moving more quickly than they are. “You can change your brain and build new connections between neurons by practicing these movements over and over,” Michael added. “People look completely different coming out of therapy than they did when they started. The sooner you start therapy, the better result you’ll get and the more you’ll be able to stay connected to your family, friends, and life.”
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