Spine & Rehab Specialists - June 2021


Alzheimer's disease is an ailment that continues to baffle us, even as we learn more about it than ever before. Doctors and scientists have made huge strides in understanding and fighting Alzheimer’s, especially in the past three decades. But for everything learned, more questions must be asked. Sometimes, things just work, and we aren’t sure why. For a long time, exercise and physical therapy were part of that. PT had a role in slowing Alzheimer’s, but doctors didn’t fully understand what that was. Today, we have a much clearer picture, and that provides hope for future understanding. There are two things at the root of PT’s connection to good Alzheimer’s treatment. The first is very basic: Alzheimer’s responds to physical activity. Just as certain mental exercises can help stave off or slow down the advent of the disease, physical activity has been shown in studies published by Harvard and in trade journals to have a positive effect on some Alzheimer’s outcomes. Obviously, it isn’t a frontline treatment, but staying active helps your brain continue to “work out” the parts that are connected to movement and body functions, which are negatively impacted by the mid and late stages of the disease.

we expect PT to progress and then slow down, even cease after a while. That’s because the injury has healed. But with Alzheimer’s, the goal of PT is to keep mobility high for as long as possible . It’s not a winning battle, but the longer we can stay active and mobile, the better our quality of life will be. Once the illness progresses to the mobility and physical function regions of the brain, physical therapy becomes all the more important. Because many late-stage Alzheimer’s patients can expect to be bedridden, increasing mobility as much as possible for as long as possible can help mitigate risks such as bed sores and other secondary ailments. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Medicine, therapy and activity can decrease the disease progressing through the physical activity centers of the brain by as much as 50%. There’s no denying that Alzheimer’s is a frightening condition, and watching loved ones go through it is hard. But we aren’t powerless in this situation. We need to put together a treatment plan, and a holistic plan will include physical activity, and later physical therapy, to mitigate those aspects of the disease. It may not be a cure, but it is a smart and effective treatment based on hard science. Right now, that has to be enough.

To that end, physical therapy itself has a big part to play. The key goal is to retain mobility. If a patient has a broken leg,

2 • www . spinerehab . net

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