Disorders of peripheral nerves can lead to loss of function due to weakness, sensory changes or pain of the affected limb(s) or trunk. Pain can be a result of the nerve injury itself or from complications such as joint contracture which can result in painful tightening of the muscles and connective tissue resulting from lack of movement. Overuse injuries such as shoulder or wrist pain of the unaffected limb, new neck or back pain can result from compensation for the affected limb. In cases of lower limb peripheral nerve dysfunction, complications can include walking or balance impairment and increased risk for falls. Your multidisciplinary clinic visit will most likely include recommendations for physical and/or occupational therapy. In cases of lower limb dysfunction recommendations may also include assistive devices such as canes, walkers or wheelchairs. Therapy sessions are typically 2-3 days per week for an hour and include stretches and exercises that the patient must do independently.
Home Rehabilitation Program
A home rehabilitation program is critical to the success of these interventions as the vast majority of time is spent outside of the clinician’s office. Therapies are often limited in duration lasting for weeks to several months. Nerve recovery is often a very slow process that can take months and years to complete regardless of the need for neurosurgical intervention. The focus of rehabilitation strategies may change when surgeries on the joints, bones or muscles are necessary. After clearance from your physician or health professional, a regular home routine will allow for the greatest chance of functional improvement. The primary goals of this program focus on improving function of the affected limb through avoidance of complications resulting from the nerve disorder via targeted strengthening, and accommodating for lack of function using braces or special equipment. A home program often means completing stretches or strengthening exercises several times per day. It empowers you, the patient, to direct and participate in recovery and is dependent on effective communication between you and your multidisciplinary team. Through prompt, coordinated communication, barriers to patient participation (i.e. poor brace fitting leading to non-use) can be corrected prior to follow-up appointments to maximize the time for recovery.
Your specific Home Program will depend on your specific nerve injury or disorder. Specific information can be found under the Peripheral Nerve Conditions and Treatments section. It will include the following general types of interventions:
- Joint range of motion and muscle stretching
- Bracing to help protect joints or provide functional support
- Targeted muscle strengthening
- Other treatments to help encourage affected limb usage
- Pain-relieving techniques
- Adaptive equipment and devices to help improve function
- Durable medical equipment to improve safety such as grab bars, lifts, canes, walkers or wheelchairs