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Archive for category: Brain Health

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The A to Z of OT: X is For… AtaXia

Ataxia is characterized by a loss of muscle control and coordination, and can affect the whole body or only specific parts.  Ataxia has a pronounced impact on how people go about the activities in their day. Without adequate muscle control and coordination, tasks like getting dressed, walking, and preparing a meal become more challenging.  Learn more about Ataxia and how Occupational Therapists help individuals with Ataxia find functional solutions in our post, Game… Set… Cerebellum.

 

October is Occupational Therapy Month and to celebrate we will be sharing a new series called the A to Z of OT.  In our attempts to further educate the public about what Occupational Therapists do we will be highlighting twenty-six of the awesome ways OTs provide Solutions for Living.  

We encourage you to follow along and to add to the discussion by highlighting other awesome things OTs help with for each corresponding letter!

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The A to Z of OT: N is for… Neuroplasticity

What is neuroplasticity?  Just as we need to exercise the muscles in our body, we also need to exercise our brain. Our brains are made of billions of neurons, which interact with each other to complete specific tasks. Signals are sent from one neuron to another along neural pathways, and these determine our thoughts, emotions, insights, and so much more. Each task relies on a different neural pathway, so the pathway for reading a book is different than the pathway for putting on our shirt. The more we use a pathway, the stronger the connection becomes.

These neurons have the ability to physically change themselves when faced with new and difficult experiences. This ability is called neuroplasticity.

Learn more about Neuroplasticity, its use in Occupational Therapy, and how we can use this knowledge to help reduce cognitive decline as we age in this previous post, Cognition and Aging, Use it or Lose it.

 

October is Occupational Therapy Month and to celebrate we will be sharing a new series called the A to Z of OT.  In our attempts to further educate the public about what Occupational Therapists do we will be highlighting twenty-six of the awesome ways OTs provide Solutions for Living.  

We encourage you to follow along and to add to the discussion by highlighting other awesome things OTs help with for each corresponding letter!

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The A to Z of OT: B is For… Brain Injury Recovery

It is well known that brain Injury is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. In fact, in Canada, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is more common than breast cancer, spinal cord injury, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis (MS) combined.  A brain injury can cause many physical, emotional and cognitive challenges.  Recovery from a brain injury can often be a long and bumpy road.  Occupational Therapists help brain injury survivors with all aspects of living including, physical symptoms, their living environment, cognition and memory and more.  Learn more about Brain Injury, methods of prevention and how OTs assist with recovery in this post from our blog, ABI the Silent Epidemic.

 

October is Occupational Therapy Month and to celebrate we will be sharing a new series called the A to Z of OT.  In our attempts to further educate the public about what Occupational Therapists do we will be highlighting twenty-six of the awesome ways OTs provide Solutions for Living.  

We encourage you to follow along with The A to Z of OT and to add to the discussion by highlighting other awesome things OTs help with for each corresponding letter!

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Game… Set… Cerebellum

Co-authored by Meredyth Bowcott, Student Occupational Therapist

The 2018 Rogers Cup has just wrapped up in Montreal and Toronto, and once again spectators in Canada and around the world were dazzled by the likes of top-ranked tennis players such as Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep. If you’ve ever tried your hand at the sport, you know it requires great speed, agility, endurance, and of course coordination.

So how do these players prepare to return a serve that can clock in at speeds of over 160 km/hour? Well, they do it with a little help from a part of the brain called the cerebellum.

The Mighty Cerebellum

The cerebellum registers the serving player’s movement pattern, along with the speed and trajectory of the tennis ball, and predicts the outcome of these movements. As the returning player makes a split-second decision about how to get into position to hit the ball back, the cerebellum is still hard at work. It receives instructions for how the body should be positioned in order to return the serve, simultaneously comparing the body to the actual position of joints and muscles. The cerebellum sends signals to adjust the position of the body in real time, giving the player the best shot at returning the serve.

We can’t all be tennis superstars, but we do all rely on our cerebellum in our day to day lives. Truly, any intentional movement that you accomplish in a smooth and predictable manner, from watering your plants to drinking a cup of coffee, is brought to you in part by your cerebellum.

Ataxia

So, what happens when this crucial brain structure becomes damaged and isn’t working as it should? One of the symptoms of cerebellar dysfunction is ataxia. Ataxia is characterized by a loss of muscle control and coordination, and can affect the whole body or only specific parts (upper extremity, lower extremity, trunk, etc.). Individuals with ataxia may have difficulty initiating movements, movements may appear jerky and imprecise, and they may have poor sitting or standing balance. Others may have difficulty swallowing or experience rapid back and forth eye-movements.

Ataxia has a pronounced impact on how people go about the activities in their day. Without adequate muscle control and coordination, tasks like getting dressed, walking, and preparing a meal become more challenging.

How Occupational Therapy Helps

It’s important for medical teams to determine the cause of the ataxia and see whether it is due to an underlying issue that can be treated. When symptoms persist, occupational therapists (OTs) focus on ways to help individuals with ataxia compensate for their symptoms. Some of the ways an OT might help someone with ataxia are:

Energy conservation: Fatigue can exacerbate symptoms of ataxia, therefore it’s important to think about how to conserve energy throughout the day.  We do this with the four P’s:

  • Prioritizing: OTs can help establish a list of priority activities, that is which tasks throughout the day are more important for the individual to be able to get done. Focusing attention on what’s most important contributes to a more rewarding day.
  • Pacing: It’s important to take regular breaks – before fatigue sets in – and practice proper pacing technique. OTs can help create a realistic daily schedule that allows time for productivity and rest.
  • Planning: OTs are skilled in task analysis and can help individuals find the most efficient way to accomplish an activity. This reduces unnecessary expenditures of energy, and can reduce frustration.
  • Positioning: OTs consider how the individual interacts with their environment while accomplishing a task. For example, ensuring everything needed to make dinner is within reach limits unnecessary movement.

Joint stabilization: If muscle incoordination occurs in the upper extremity, it can be beneficial to stabilize the arm when accomplishing gross and fine motor movements. For example, stabilizing one’s elbow by leaning it on a table can help create a smoother movement when drinking from a cup.

Adaptive equipment: OTs can recommend equipment to make certain tasks easier. In some cases, the use of weighted utensils may help reduce jerky arm movements. Self leveling spoons can also help minimize spills during mealtime. Lining work surfaces in the kitchen with a non-slip mat such as Dycem © can provide traction to compensate for muscle incoordination.

Every person with ataxia is different, and occupational therapists have the skills to develop individualized plans to help them lead active and fulfilling lives. For more information on these and other ways occupational therapy plays a part in treating ataxia, contact an OT!  In the meantime, if you like sports, watch the cerebellum in action at the upcoming US Open!

 

References:

Anderson Preston, L. (2013). Evaluation of Motor Control. In H. McHugh Pendleton & W. Schultz-Krohn (Eds.), Pedretti’s Occupational Therapy: Practice Skills for Physical Dysfunction, 7th Edition. (pp. 461-488). St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Mosby.

Foti, D. & Koketsu, J.S. (2013). Activities of Daily Living. In H. McHugh Pendleton & W. Schultz-Krohn (Eds.), Pedretti’s Occupational Therapy: Practice Skills for Physical Dysfunction, 7th Edition. (pp. 157-232). St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Mosby.

Mayo Clinic. (2018). Ataxia. Retrieved from:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ataxia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355652

Tipton-Burton, M., McLaughlin R, & Englander, J. (2013). Traumatic Brain Injury. In H. McHugh Pendleton & W. Schultz-Krohn (Eds.), Pedretti’s Occupational Therapy: Practice Skills for Physical Dysfunction, 7th Edition. (pp. 881-915). St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Mosby.

UBC Medicine – Educational Media. (2014, February 18). The Cerebellum – UBC Neuroanatomy – Season 1 – Ep 8 [Video File]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17mxfO9nklQ

 

 

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O-Tip of the Week: Limit Distractions

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

Occupational Therapists are a vital part of a team of professionals that assist with the rehabilitation from brain injury.  For the month of June, Brain Injury Awareness Month, our series will be providing solutions to assist with some of the many symptoms of brain injury. 

When recovering from a brain injury distractions may be more significant than pre-injury.  Because of this, it can be difficult to get anything done. When attempting to complete a task try to minimize all distractions allowing your full concentration to be focused on the task at hand.  Turn off televisions, radios, your cell phone and attempt to focus fully on what you need to do.

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Yoga for the Healing Brain

Guest Blogger Samantha Hunt, Student Occupational Therapist

In celebration of Brain Injury month in June, we wanted to highlight the benefits of yoga and mindfulness meditation as a solution for living with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

What is Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation?

While there are many different types of yoga practices, in general yoga involves physical movement, breathing exercises, meditation, and moral observations in a set period of time, with the goal of connecting the mind and body. Likewise, mindfulness meditation is described as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”, in order to help train us in awareness, concentration, and acceptance. Yoga can be practiced with one-on-one instruction, or in a wheelchair or sitting down as well, through adapted yoga.

Yoga, Mindfulness Meditation and TBI

After experiencing physical trauma, there is a severe body and mind separation that impacts the abilities of the nervous system and alters the pattern of the body, breath, and mind structure. This is where the practice of yoga and mindfulness meditation can assist the recovery. By consciously and consistently focusing the mind, we are reprogramming the neuropathways in the brain that have been impacted. By quieting the mind and focusing on building strength and flexibility, practicing yoga can also assist with the mental distractions and stressors that commonly occur after TBI, such as over excitement and anxiety.

Benefits of Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation for TBI

·       Improved concentration

·       Decreased stress, anxiety, and depression

·       Better sleep

·       Improved attention abilities

·       Improved working memory

·       Reduced mental fatigue

·       Improved strength, balance, endurance, and flexibility

Where to Begin

There are several simple ways to start incorporating yoga and mindfulness into your life. Some suggestions include:

·       Reading for inspiration (mindfulness books, yoga books)

·       Joining a group or taking a class

·       Free apps (such as “Headspace” or “Happify”)

·       Practicing 4-8 minutes of mindfulness breath each day

·       One-on-one adapted yoga with an instructor, such as (in the Hamilton Ontario area):

o   Christina Versteeg, Paradigm Rehabilitation (Christina@paradigmrehab.ca)

·       Following yoga practice videos online, such as:

o   http://www.loveyourbrain.com/yoga-videos/

o   https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene

 

References:

www.braininjurycanada.ca/yoga-webinar/

www.tbitherapy.com/yoga-meditation-brain-injury/

www.ontarioabiconference.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/C2-Yoga-Therapy-for-Acquired-Brain-Injury-.pdf

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Tips for Communicating with Brain Injury Survivors

A brain injury can cause many physical, emotional and cognitive challenges.  Due to memory issues, fatigue and emotional stress communication challenges may exist.  Understandably, it can also be difficult for family, friends, and co-workers to learn ways to effectively communicate with their loved one who suffered a brain injury.  The following article care of Michelle Munt of My Jumbled Brain gives some wonderful insight on how to communicate with brain injury survivors.  Michelle, a brain injury survivor herself, has created a fantastic blog filled with articles and insight for brain injury survivors, caregivers, and healthcare professionals.

My Jumbled Brain:  Understanding how to communicate with brain injury survivors

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O-Tip of the Week: Break it Down

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

Occupational Therapists are a vital part of a team of professionals that assist with the rehabilitation from brain injury.  For the month of June, Brain Injury Awareness Month, our series will be providing solutions to assist with some of the many symptoms of brain injury. 

With a brain injury, many will have symptoms that include lack of focus, fatigue, poor concentration, forgetfulness and more.  These symptoms make it difficult for someone to complete daily tasks whether big or small.  It is often beneficial to have someone, like an OT, work with you to help break down tasks into smaller more manageable parts allowing for rest and providing multiple opportunities for accomplishment!