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An acquired brain injury (ABI) is an injury to the brain that occurs after birth. It can result in physical, cognitive, and psychological impairments. ABIs can be caused by traumatic events such as a fall or car accident or non-traumatic events such as a stroke, tumour or infection. A lack of oxygen can also cause them to the brain due to near drowning or drug overdose. ABIs range from mild concussions to more severe injuries such as traumatic brain injury (TBI). No two injuries are alike and the effects of each vary from person to person depending on their level of severity.

Introduction

Physiotherapy plays a key role in helping individuals recover from an ABI by improving motor skills and reducing physical disabilities. Through individualized treatment plans that often include exercises customized for the patient’s needs, physiotherapists help improve mobility and balance, reduce fatigue, and ultimately help patients get back on their feet following an ABI.

A Brain

Types of Acquired Brain Injuries

An acquired brain injury can include both mild and severe injuries. Some common types of ABIs include:

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI):

TBI is caused by a bump, jolt, or blow to the head that disrupts normal brain function. It can range from a mild concussion to more severe damage such as bleeding or swelling in the brain.

Stroke:

Strokes occur when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts which stops oxygen and nutrients from reaching the affected area of the brain. This results in damage or death of the affected brain cells.

Hypoxic-Ischemic Injury:

The hypoxic-ischemic injury occurs when there is an inadequate supply of oxygen to parts of the brain due to events such as near drowning, choking, electric shock, drug overdose, carbon monoxide poisoning and cardiac arrest.

Infections & Tumors:

Infections and tumours can cause damage to the brain cells if left untreated for too long. Infections may be caused by bacteria or viruses that target the brain while tumours are caused by uncontrolled cell growth in the tissue around or inside the skull cavity.

Brain Injury Treatment Options

The treatment for acquired brain injuries can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Common treatments include:

Medication:

Doctors may prescribe medication to relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of further complications.

Physical and Occupational Therapy:

Physical and occupational therapy are essential components of any rehabilitation program as they can help restore mobility, motor skills and independence. Therapists will create customized plans based on each individual’s specific needs which may involve exercises, activities, muscle strengthening and balance training.

Speech Therapy:

Speech therapy can help individuals regain communication abilities in cases where speech is impaired due to a brain injury or disorder.

Counselling:

Counselling is beneficial for helping individuals cope with the psychological effects of an ABI such as depression, anxiety and changes in behaviour.

a brain lifting weights

Benefits of Physiotherapy for Acquired Brain Injury Patients

Physiotherapy is an essential component of ABI rehabilitation and can be beneficial in several ways:

  • Restore Mobility: Physiotherapists use specialized exercises and activities designed to restore mobility, strength, coordination, balance and function.
  • Pain Management: Physiotherapy also offers relief from chronic pain associated with ABIs as well as other musculoskeletal disorders. Therapeutic massage and other physical modalities such as electrical stimulation and ultrasound can help reduce pain symptoms.
  • Prevent Complications: Regular sessions with a physiotherapist can help reduce the risk of further complications from the ABI by improving posture, breathing control and circulation.
  • Improve Quality of Life: Through targeted exercises and activities, physiotherapists can help improve the quality of life for people who have had an ABI. The goal is to help them regain their independence and maintain a healthy lifestyle to achieve optimal function.

What to Expect from a Physiotherapy Session

A physiotherapy session typically involves the following steps:

Assessment:

During your initial session, the physiotherapist will assess your condition, discuss your medical history and develop an individualized treatment plan.

Exercise:

Then, they may demonstrate exercises that can help you reach your goals. This could involve stretches, strengthening or balance exercises.

Education:

The physiotherapist may also educate you on how to prevent further damage or pain and offer advice on lifestyle changes that can have a positive impact on your recovery.

Evaluation:

Finally, they will evaluate your progress at each session and adjust the treatment plan as needed.

Physiothearpist working with a brain

Challenges Faced When Recovering from an Acquired Brain Injury

Recovering from an acquired brain injury (ABI) can present many unique challenges. Here is a brief overview of some of the most common issues faced by ABI patients:

  • Cognitive Impairment: Cognitive deficits associated with ABIs can include difficulty with concentration, memory, decision-making and problem-solving. These cognitive issues can take a toll both emotionally and mentally, making it difficult to return to daily life activities.
  • Physical Disabilities: Most individuals who suffer from ABIs experience physical impairments such as unsteady gait or loss of motor function that makes completing everyday tasks more difficult.
  • Behavioural and Emotional Issues: Those recovering from ABIs may struggle with behavioural or emotional problems such as depression, anxiety or irritability. Also, they may have difficulty controlling their temper or interacting with others in social situations.
  • Fatigue: Fatigue is another common challenge for those recovering from ABIs. It can be caused by physical exertion, mental stress, medications or even the process of healing itself and can further complicate the recovery process.

Conclusion

Recovering from an ABI can be a major challenge, one that presents those affected with various impairments, physical disabilities and emotional issues. Thankfully, treatment is available in the form of professional physiotherapists who specialize in helping patients regain their quality of life so they may live it to its fullest potential once again.

Additional Resources

National Library of Medicine article on physiotherapy after a traumatic brain injury. 

John Hopkins article on rehabilitation after a brain injury.

About Bergin Motion

Barrie Ontario Physiotherapy

Bergin Motion is a Barrie Physiotherapy Clinic. Bergin Motion offers physiotherapy in Barrie to clients with a wide range of conditions.

The clinic in Barrie specializes in orthopedic, neurological, and pelvic health disciplines.

Bergin Motion treats clients at our clinic and in the comfort of their home if they cannot travel to the clinic.

Located in the south end of Barrie, Ontario, the physio clinic boasts 9000 sq. ft., with seven treatment rooms and a fully equipped gym.