Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurological disease that typically begins in the hands, feet, and extremities, then progresses centrally. People may first discover that they have difficulty walking, tripping or poor balance. In addition, people may notice that they have weakness in their hands or legs, along with occasional muscle cramps.
As the disease progresses, it affects walking, use of the arms, speaking, swallowing and breathing muscles. While there is no cure for ALS, maintaining independence and function as long as possible is the goal of the rehabilitation team. Safety with walking and adaptation of assistive devices is critical to prevent secondary complications such as fractures from falls.
How therapy helps
Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy typically coordinate as a team for people with ALS, depending on their severity of symptoms and progression of the disease. Physical therapy focuses on improving and maintaining range of motion, strength, stamina, walking, and balance. In addition, our Hazel Green, AL or Fayetteville, TN physical therapists will focus on making recommendations for adaptive equipment such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs, braces and other devices. The goal of physical therapy is to maintain safety with walking and independence for as long as possible.
Occupational therapists focus on helping ALS patients with their upper extremity use, working on strength, stamina, a range of motion and function. Recommendations for adaptive equipment with grasping, reaching and writing are part of care. In addition, training and adaptation of daily living activities, such as dressing, eating, cooking, and work are modified as needed.
Speech therapists focus on the muscles of the throat, mouth, and tongue as well as breathing. All this can help maintain safety with eating/drinking and improve the ability to communicate. Speech therapy also focuses on making adaptations for speech, communicating, eating and drinking.
Although ALS is a progressive disease, the use of physical, occupational and speech therapy can make a big difference in your quality of life, maintaining independence and function for as long as possible.