Neurology Services in Hiram
Neurology is a complex area of medicine focused on the central nervous system, which contains the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, which includes nerves all over the body that send signals back to the brain. Nerves carry the input from all our senses to the brain and allow us to sense pain. This is a good thing when it helps us learn not to touch a hot stove or do other activities that could harm us, but sometimes pain lingers after an injury, and it becomes a hindrance instead.
At Optimum Health Rehab, we treat many patients with different kinds of pain, and a deep understanding of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves is essential in pain management. At the same time, neurological issues may cause numbness, tingling, or loss of function in addition to or instead of pain, and we can also help with these symptoms. Here are some of the neurological services we use to assist patients with pain and other symptoms:
Sometimes it’s difficult to know what’s wrong when you have perplexing symptoms your doctor hasn’t been able to unravel. Often a neurological evaluation is used to determine if your symptoms are due to a nerve or nervous system problem or a more local issue. The results of this exam show how your brain and nerves are functioning and point us toward what other tests might be useful in making a diagnosis.
During a neurological evaluation, we will check the following:
- Your cognitive state and speech. We will ask you questions to determine if you’re thinking clearly and responding to queries in a typical manner. For example, you might be asked if you know the date or where you are.
- Your cranial nerve function. This refers to the nerves in your hands and face, which may become damaged due to illness or injury.
- Your physical strength, muscle tone, and coordination. Through a series of exercises or activities, we’ll learn if you have any difficulties we can address with physical therapy or other treatments.
- Reflexes. If you’re thinking about being tapped on the knee, that is one test for reflexes, but we will do others to check different reflexes across various body areas.
- Sensory abilities. For this part of the test, we’ll check your ability to feel different sensations and textures. In some cases, you may have difficulty only in one area of the body, or in others, you may have lost some feeling all over or in multiple places.
- Gait and walking or movement ability. Sometimes, difficulty with walking or other movements can signify nerve or nervous system issues.
- Your spine. We will check sensations and responses that may indicate spine or spinal cord issues.
Exercise and Oxygen Therapy
Exercise with oxygen therapy, or EWOT, is a system in which we give the patient oxygen while they exercise, usually by walking or running on a treadmill or using a stationary bike. (This is based on your abilities, and you will not be asked to overexert yourself.)
How does EWOT affect neurological health? As we age, our ability to process oxygen gradually decreases by about 1 percent per year. The brain needs oxygen as fuel, so the aging process can leave it with less of what it requires to perform at its best. This is particularly a problem in the cerebellum, a small brain area with a large responsibility. It coordinates many processes in the body, including muscle movements, balance, coordination, and even learning new skills. An injury or illness can cause obvious damage to the cerebellum and affect functioning in these areas. However, the slight decrease in available oxygen as we age can also cause more subtle changes that may not be noticed.
EWOT speeds up the delivery of oxygen to the cerebellum through exercise and a higher concentration of oxygen delivered. You will get more of what you need exactly where you need it. This can be helpful for people recovering from certain brain illnesses or injuries or even simply suffering the effects of aging.
There are several different types of physical therapy. Some focus on rehabilitating an injured area of the body, like your leg or back. Others, such as neuromuscular reeducation, may specifically target the nerves or the interaction between nerves and muscles. However, even locally-targeted therapy can affect the nerves. For example, physical therapy for back pain may involve exercises to improve posture or change how you move in some situations. As a result, you may relieve pressure on a compressed or pinched nerve, lessening your pain and other symptoms.
Neuromuscular reeducation seeks to support or reestablish connections between the nerves and muscles that allow your muscles to respond with your intended movement. Your therapist may begin by asking you to do some simple exercises so they can see what kind of help you need. If you can’t do the exercises, that’s not a problem – it will help your therapist know where to start. They may begin with massage therapy or pressure on certain areas to get the blood flowing and boost healing. Additionally, your therapist may have you do exercises to strengthen your muscles and tendons and regain control of your movements.
Remember that physical therapy is a process, and most people don’t see results immediately. Your progress will likely go faster if you follow your therapist’s instructions and do “homework” exercises as prescribed on days when you don’t come in for therapy. Some patients get discouraged if they don’t feel better right away, but neuromuscular reeducation can take weeks or months for you to reach maximum improvement. It’s still one of the most effective ways to regain function.
Pain Management Injections
Sometimes physical therapy can be painful, especially if you’ve been unable to move much due to an injury. Disuse can cause the muscles to atrophy, which makes moving them again more difficult and painful. You may also have inflammation causing even more pain, making it more difficult to exercise. This creates a frustrating, circular situation where you can’t move because you’re in pain, and then you’re in more pain because you can’t move! Sometimes the only way to escape this cycle is to relieve the discomfort. To this end, we may give you injections to reduce local inflammation and calm the nerves in the area, allowing you to focus on physical rehabilitation work.
Neuropathic pain occurs when an injured nerve puts out faulty pain signals, even when there is no stimulus or cause of pain in the area. In other words, the nerve isn’t sensing damage nearby. It is damaged. Sometimes the nerve damage is caused by nerve compression – sciatica is a common example. In these cases, we may relieve the neuropathic damage by shifting pressure off the nerve.
But in other situations, the nerve may have suffered a sustained injury, leading it to continue malfunctioning even if the source of the damage is removed. If this happens, we may treat the nerve with a plasma-rich platelet injection (PRP therapy), a regenerative therapy that utilizes your body’s healing processes.
PRP begins with a simple blood draw. While you wait in our office, we’ll use a centrifuge to isolate the plasma, a pale liquid that contains platelets and other healing substances. The plasma is then further broken down into platelet-rich and platelet-poor versions. The platelet-rich plasma is a bountiful source of bio proteins and growth hormones that aid the body’s healing mechanisms. When it’s distributed through the blood, only small amounts of these substances reach any particular body area.
However, PRP therapy allows us to inject the concentrated, platelet-rich plasma directly into the affected nerve. This potent combination of healing factors goes to work right at the source of your pain, regenerating the nerve and relieving pain.
Electrical stimulation has multiple purposes in neurology. It can be used for diagnostic purposes, such as nerve conduction tests. When we do these, we connect two electrodes to the skin and run a mild, low-voltage current through them to see how well the nerve responds. If the response is too slow, that may indicate an issue with the nerve. We can then run further tests to determine the cause and treat the problem.
We can also use electrical stimulation as part of physical therapy to help the muscles contract or to stimulate damaged nerves. Combined with other techniques, this can be an effective way to help you make improvements and regain function.
Lastly, electrical stimulation is sometimes used for pain relief, especially if other treatments have been unsuccessful. We can use a TENS unit or a similar device to send an electrical current that blocks nerve signals from reaching the brain. If this works well for you, we may send you home with a TENS unit and instructions on how to use it. Many people like this treatment because it offers a drug-free solution for pain, while traditional treatments usually focus on medications that could have significant side effects.
Learn More About Hiram Neurology Services Today
To set up an appointment for a neurological evaluation or other neurology services in Hiram, please contact Optimum Health Rehab online to call (770) 439-6997 today. If you have questions or concerns about insurance coverage, our staff will be happy to help.