Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. In ALS patients, the gradual death of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control muscles can result in weakened  muscles throughout the body.

As the disease progresses and more muscles are affected, getting around and accomplishing everyday tasks can become increasingly difficult. The degree to which an individual patient is affected can vary significantly, and there is a range of techniques and technologies to keep them independent for as long as possible.

Physiotherapy

Exercise can help maintain maximum mobility, but excessive or incorrect exercise can cause more issues. A physiotherapist can advise on what exercises and techniques can benefit each individual, and how much exercise is safe for the patient.

This could include flexibility training such as range of movement (ROM) exercises to prevent joints from stiffening, and strengthening, balance training, and aerobic exercises. These activities can be active (the patient carries out the exercise alone), active-assisted (a helper helps the patient) or passive (a helper moves and supports the limbs entirely).

Assistive technologies

An occupational therapist plays an important role in assessing the effect that ALS is having on daily life, offering guidance on which assistive technologies could be of most benefit and advising about how the patient’s home could be adapted to help maintain independence.

As movement becomes difficult, an occupational therapist may recommend a cane or walker, or for railings to be fitted around the home to aid movement. As the disease progresses, more advanced technologies, such as a power-assisted wheelchair or stair lifts, may be an option to allow the patient to move around independently and more easily.

Assistive technologies do not just help a patient maintain mobility. For example, there is special equipment available to aid in everyday tasks, such as dressing and maintaining dental hygiene, if arm strength and movement become limited.

ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.