How to Find a Neuro Physical Therapist?
At some point on each of our journeys with MS, we may need expert guidance from a physical therapist or physiologist. I was referred to PT after I began having difficulty standing up from a seated position. In PT, we learned that in addition to hip and leg weakness, I encountered a great deal of de-conditioning so part of my rehab was exercise to rebuild overall strength and stamina.
Finding a really good physical therapist can be challenging. I’m fortunate in that my neurologist made a recommendation for a PT in our area who specializes in neurological conditions. In fact, that’s the first way I would suggest that someone find a therapist who is expert in MS; ask your neurologist or MS nurse. Medical professionals working in the same community often know each others’ strengths and expertise.
A second way to locate a physical therapist who works with MS patients is to contact the National MS Society; or contact the Consortium of MS Centers which offers MS certification training programs for health professionals who work with people living with MS, including physical rehabilitation specialists.
A third way is to go straight to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) which features a national “find a doctor” database on their website. Using this tool, you can narrow down your search to practitioners who specialize in neurological PT. I searched my own area for neuro PTs and the result was a list of 43 professionals within 10 miles of my zipcode. However, upon closer examination of their profiles, only 16 specified neurological rehabilitation and of those 8 were located in Virginia.
Please know that there are subspecialties within neurological physical therapy. When you are looking for your own physical therapist, I recommend that you read the clinic’s description of their facilities and services offered. Ask questions about extra training and experience working with MS patients specifically. Be aware that a neuro PT who works primarily with mobility, strength, and balance issues will not be the same type of neuro PT who works with cognition and memory.
Ironically, when I searched the APTA database my own physical therapist did not have any specialties listed in her profile but she is one of the best in our area. Going to her clinic is like going to a really cool gym that is specially equipped for folks whose nerves happen to get in the way of function and strength. On her website is this description:
At Advanced Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Center, LLC (APT), leading edge rehabilitation technology, combined with expert hands-on therapy, help to maximize function and increase independence in our patients who have had stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord, brain injuries, or who suffer from other neurological illnesses and conditions. New and emerging technologies are transforming the field of neuro-rehabilitation and APT is the only clinic in Northern Virginia that has the most advanced technologies to assist patients who have limited use of their upper extremities or who have difficulty walking due to injury or illness. APT’s staff has received advanced training by experts and have earned the necessary certifications to use these remarkable devices to enhance their patient’s potential to overcome the challenges created by their impairments.”
The last time I was in the PT office, I witnessed the use of the Ekso® which is a wearable robotic device that allows people with lower extremity paralysis or weakness to stand up and walk. The patient works on balance and proper body positioning while the device, programmed with patient height and leg length, facilitates walking over ground with reciprocal gait. Very cool.
I also really appreciate the expertise of my PT because she can quickly access whether an apparent neurological deficit, such as difficulty walking on your heels or toes, is caused by a musculoskeletal problem or neurological problem. In my case, recent difficulty in heel-walking was due to stiffness and shortened muscles on the backs of my legs rather than neurological weakness in my shins. Prescription for home exercise included lots of targeted stretching in my calves, hamstrings, and hips to help improve balance and gait.
If you ever need help from a physical therapist, no matter how large or small the issue, I hope that you consider working with a professional who has an express interest in improving the lives of people with neurological conditions. We are a special group that deserves special attention.