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From disability to possibility:
a guide to physical rehabilitation

Physical Rehabilitation is described as the process a person goes through to reach optimal physical functionality, and physical therapy refers specifically to the physical therapy profession. 

A physical disability inhibits the functions of one or more limbs or sensory organs. Even a partial disability, for example, the loss of your thumb or a 60% loss of vision in one eye, can change your life and the way you carry out everyday tasks. A disability limits your interactivity with the world, and you need to adjust your lifestyle to suit your needs. 

You would require a combination of resilience, motivation, support, and a great deal of positivity for your rehabilitation journey to overcoming your physical limitations. Your journey may be on a zigzag rocky road, but the most important thing to remember is that you can do it and live as close to a normal life as possible. You can beat the odds with your human strength and advancements in rehabilitation treatments and technology.  

Rehabilitation can be your lifeline to regain your independence and improve the quality of your life. For example, things we take for granted, such as the motion in our wrists, a broken wrist that has been in a cast for months, need to gain the strength and range of motion it previously had to accomplish simple tasks such as writing. 

Rehabilitation encompasses a multidisciplinary approach involving physiatrists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists, and may even include speech therapists.  

The consultation with your primary care physician is an excellent starting point for your journey. They can assess your overall health, refer you to the correct specialists, and guide you towards appropriate rehabilitation options.

physiatrist

A physiatrist specialises in physical medicine and rehabilitation and focuses on improving your physical function and quality of life without surgical intervention. A physiatrist makes and manages medical diagnoses and prescribes the therapies that physical and other therapists will perform. 

Some physiatrist interventions may include: ​

  • Ultrasound-guided procedures.
  • Never stimulators or blocks.
  • Joint or spine injections.
  • Nerve conducting studies.
  • Nerve and muscle biopsies.
  • Spasticity treatment.
  • Osteopathic treatment.
  • Orthotic or prosthetic prescriptions.

Physical therapists

Physical therapists evaluate and treat your specific physical condition that affects your mobility, strength, and coordination.

Some physical therapist interventions may include: ​

  • Strengthening and resistance training.
  • Early mobilisation.
  • Balance and vestibular training.
  • Transfer training.
  • Exercise prescriptions.
  • Stretching.
  • Gait training.
  • Electrical stimulation.
  • Thermotherapy.
  • Cryotherapy.
  • Massages
  • Dry needling

Occupational therapists

Occupational therapists focus on enhancing your living skills where your physical disability affects your ability to perform ‘Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).

Some occupational therapist techniques may include: ​​

  • Retraining in daily activities such as bathing, dressing and cooking.
  • Environmental modifications such as handrails or ramps for wheelchairs.
  • Recommendations on assistive devices and adaptive technology.
  • Splint fabrication.
  • Energy conservation training.
  • Caregiver and patient education.
  • Electrical stimulation.
  • Thermotherapy.
  • Stretches and exercises promote balance, strength, and fine motor skills.
  • Sensory integration.
  • Mindfulness techniques.
  • Lymphedema management.

Orthopaedic surgeons

Orthopaedic surgeons come into play when surgical intervention is required and may make up part of your care team. 

prosthetist or orthotist

A prosthetist or orthotist is available if you have lost a limb and require an orthotic device, such as a prosthetic or bionic limb. 

Neurologists

Neurologists are brought in for conditions affecting your nervous system, such as an injury to your spine, and they provide a valuable diagnosis and guidance in your rehabilitation journey. 

Coping with your disability can have psychological implications, and it is always advisable to seek psychological assistance when you need it. 

With physical rehabilitation therapy, not only will you enhance your strength, but you may also alleviate pain and improve your capacity for activity, endurance, and balance. Additionally, physical rehabilitation can enhance your safety within your home environment, mitigating the risk of falls and reducing the likelihood of future hospital readmissions. 

This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance. 

References

Bence, S. (2021, September 24). Physical Rehabilitation: An Overview. Retrieved from verwellhealth:
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/05/cancer-treatment-and-diagnosis-breakthroughs/ 

Department of Kinesiology and Health|Centre for Disability SPorts, Health and Wellness. (n.d.). Retrieved November 09, 2023, from Kines.Rutgers.edu:
https://www.worldwidecancerresearch.org/news-opinion/2022/december/our-top-5-cancer-research-breakthroughs-of-2022/ 

Disability and Health Promotion. (2020, September 16). Retrieved from CDC.gov: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/disability.html

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