01 Feb Why PT is Critical for Brain Rehab
Dr. Lara Davis, Resident Physical Therapist at Cerebrum Health Centers, has a Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise and Sports Sciences from Texas Tech and a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Texas Women’s University. She is also currently working toward her PhD in Physical Therapy and board certified Specialization in Neurology.
Dr. Davis’s passion to pursue a neurological specialization in the context of physical therapy began during her third clinical rotation at an inpatient brain injury rehab facility. Here were individuals who couldn’t walk, speak, or function well and Dr. Davis viewed this as an opportunity to apply her extensive knowledge of the intricacies of the musculoskeletal system and rehabilitate many of these dependent individuals as close as possible to independent. In her own words, she loved that she “could make them feel like a person again.”
So why is the physical therapy component just as critical to brain rehabilitation success as the brain therapy exercises themselves? It really comes down to maximizing success through “functional building blocks.”
When an individual who has suffered a traumatic brain injury comes to Cerebrum the detailed diagnostics and exam reveal what parts of the brain are functioning below optimal levels and then the clinicians create a treatment plan using various exercises that aim to strengthen and improve the performance of that under-functioning area.
For example – Picture a patient whose traumatic brain injury has left them with dizziness, bad balance, and poor coordination. On the neuro treatment side of things, the vestibular system might be addressed, essentially “re-training” that patient’s brain how to interpret where they are in relation to the world around them. If after an injury a patient’s brain is telling them that everyone else’s feeling of “walking upright” is their feeling of “falling backwards”, they may develop a tendency to overcorrect by preferring to lean forward.
A functional neurologist can tackle this over-corrective “forward lean” preference by re-teaching the brain where true center of gravity is supposed to be. However, there will inevitably be involuntary postural muscles that have been underutilized after so much time engaging the muscles for leaning forward. And this is why the physical therapy component is so critical. This is why doctors like Dr. Davis are such a critical aspect of truly effective brain rehabilitation where restoring full functionality of brain and body is the goal.
Dr. Davis’s expertise allows her to identify where physical limitations are prohibiting optimal functional rehabilitation and she can then develop a targeted therapy plan for the patient to work on activating and strengthening those underutilized or inactive areas. Such physical targeting creates foundation blocks that Dr. Davis then continues to build on through targeted neuro-strengthening therapy.
This is where neuroplasticity really comes into play. We don’t often realize that when physical and visual coordination is being challenged, the muscles stimulated by the physical challenge are activated in the body, sending signals to the corresponding area of the brain. Similarly, when the visual impairment issues are addressed by incorporating visual components into the therapy, the damaged areas of the brain that require visual stimuli to “do their job properly” (like the vestibular system) are reactivated as well.
Dr. Lara Davis’s understanding of how combinations of physical and neuro physical therapies engage targeted neuroplasticity in the brain gives the patients at Cerebrum an elevated level of brain rehabilitation and ultimately, a much higher ceiling of long-term recovery results!
Dr. Lara Davis is currently working on developing a specialty dizziness and balance program at Cerebrum to continue improving our ability to help patients whose lives are impacted by these symptoms! If you or a loved one is experiencing dizziness or balance issues following a past concussion or head injury or any other reason, please give us a call at (855) 444-2724 or fill out a contact form. We can help!