Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that leads to the progressive degeneration of nerve cells. Most patients experience some disability as a result of the disease and have difficulty with daily tasks like walking, feeding, and dressing. While there is no cure for ALS yet, there are a number of treatments available that can help reduce symptoms of the disease. Physiotherapy is one such treatment that can help maintain patients’ quality of life and slow ALS’ progression.

What is physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy, also called physical therapy, is a treatment method that focuses on movement. For ALS patients, it can be used to restore, maintain, and maximize physical strength, function, motion, and well-being.

Physical therapists recommend exercises to maintain flexibility, while preventing and reducing pain. Physical therapists also may provide instruction regarding the use of assistive aids or adaptive devices to maximize patient mobility.

In addition, physical therapists can teach a patient’s caregivers how to help them effectively with daily tasks and movement. If patients are assigned in-home exercises, caregivers will need to know how to assist them.

Physical therapists can help patients by designing a structured exercise regimen that includes stretching exercises, range-of-motion exercises, and strengthening exercises.

When should ALS patients begin physiotherapy?

Patients should begin meeting with a physical therapist as soon as possible after diagnosis to discuss disease progression and how physiotherapy can help at each stage. Patients also should speak with a physiotherapist as soon as they notice their day-to-day mobility being affected by the disease, especially if they are having difficulty with walking or balance.

Physiotherapy research in ALS

A small study, published in the journal Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, indicated that physiotherapy at home in the early stages of ALS may be effective in maintaining patients’ respiratory functions and delaying disease progression.

The study enrolled 21 patients diagnosed with early-stage ALS. The patients underwent tailored, but unsupervised, home-based exercises. Fifteen patients completed the study. These patients scored significantly better on the ALS functional rating scale-revised (ALSFRS-R) compared to a group of 84 ALS patients who received physiotherapy at a clinic.

Another case study, published in Muscle &Nerve, considered the different needs of ALS patients at different stages of the disease, with a comparison of adaptive aids that may be required as the disease progresses. The study also emphasized the importance of a team-based approach to ALS patient care.

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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.