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Benefits of Rehabilitative Services

Guest Author: Ellie Martin

According to the World Health Organization, rehabilitation is defined as “a set of interventions designed to optimize functioning and reduce disability in individuals with health conditions in interaction with their environment.” Rehabilitation can help by making everyday activities more enjoyable.

Using rehabilitation services is a way to improve quality of life, both physically and mentally, for people affected by Ataxia. There are many benefits to taking part in some form of rehabilitation:

  • Increased physical and mental strength
  • Improved confidence, independence, and self-awareness
  • Educating others about Ataxia
  • Setting and achieving goals 

My name is Ellie and I have a rare form of Cerebellar Ataxia. I recently graduated from college where I studied rehabilitation services. I am going to share information I learned along with some personal experiences on the subject. I am creating a series of 12 articles that focus on rehabilitation services that can be beneficial to others with Ataxia. Here are a few ways that using rehabilitation therapy for movement disorders has made a big difference in my life with a rare form of Ataxia.  

Increased Physical and Mental Strength

For those who know of or have participated in physical therapy or some other form of Ataxia rehabilitation programs, I’m sure they’d agree that the benefits are clear .  According to the World Health Organization, “rehabilitation can help to prevent, reduce or manage complications associated with many health conditions.” Physical therapy, adaptive sports, and aquatic therapies are examples of rehab options that help maintain strength and endurance for a healthy lifestyle.
 
Therapy that focuses  specifically on balance and coordination, such as gait stabilization exercises, can be beneficial to a person with Ataxia  by helping manage the symptoms. According to Mayo Clinic , there are physiological benefits of exercise such as an improvement of one’s mood and a reduced anxiety. Physical activity releases feel-good endorphins in the brain which enhance the sense of well-being. By doing some form of therapy every week, the brain will continue to get those endorphins which will keep us feeling better for longer. Whenever I work out, I feel better about myself and feel like I am stronger.
 

Improved Confidence, Independence, and Self-Awareness

Neurological rehabilitation services provide an increase in self-confidence and independence. Getting out and doing activities is good for our physical health, staying active will help our muscles will get stronger, which leads to self-confidence and becoming less dependent on others.
 
Some rehab services offer speech therapy as well. Speech therapy focuses specifically on communication skills and will help improve language barriers. Cleveland Clinic states that speech therapy helps you express your thoughts and understand  what others are expressing also. It can also improve skills like your memory and ability to solve problems. Becoming self-aware through rehabilitation services helps us see things differently and to know ourselves better. According to Humber River Health, developing self-awareness gives us the power to influence outcomes and improves our decision-making. Our communication is enhanced  which allows us to see things from various perspectives.

Educating Others

Rehabilitation is a perfect opportunity to educate and spread awareness about Ataxia. With Ataxia being a rare disease, it is common to come across people who are not familiar with Ataxia. I have participated in many different types of rehabilitation therapies, and it hasn’t always been easy to find a specialist who is trained in working with Ataxia patients. NAF’s Ataxia and specialty clinic list is a great resource when looking for specialists where you live. I have referred some of my therapists and personal trainers to look at the information provided by NAF to become more familiar with Ataxia symptoms, exercises, and treatments. Helping others to learn more about Ataxia also helps us.

Creating Goals

In rehabilitation, it is important to have a target to strive for. This makes it easier to see progress along the way.  Goal setting helps develop new and healthy behaviors. Elaine Houston says, “Understanding the importance of goals and the techniques involved in setting achievable goals paves the way for success.”
 
For example, I set a goal to ride my recumbent bike 200 miles for the month of June to raise money for NAF. By setting this goal, it helped me stay motivated and active, and it helped me build strength and endurance as the miles added up. Setting goals is a good tool to have for anything in life.
When thinking about starting a new therapy, or even repeating some form of rehabilitation, I hope you consider the extra benefits that come along with it. Setting some rehabilitation goals this year can provide a year of improved strength, mood, and confidence in your journey with Ataxia.

 

Disclaimer: Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, exercise, treatment, or nutritional supplement.

 
References
“Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 23 Dec. 2023, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/.

Humber River Health, Shelley Aronov-Jacoby. “The Benefits of Self-Awareness.” Humber River Health, 27 Jan. 2022, www.hrh.ca/2022/01/27/the-benefits-of-self-awareness/.

“Rehabilitation.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Elaine Houston, B.Sc. “What Is Goal Setting and How to Do It Well.” PositivePsychology.Com, 21 Feb. 2024, positivepsychology.com/goal-setting/.
 
Cleveland Clinic medical. “How Do I Know If I Need Speech Therapy?” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/22366-speech-therapy. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.
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