The Science Zone: The Link Between Neurological Rehabilitation & Mental Health

Our contribution to our Science Zone series this month comes from our Physio Assistant, Josh Leadbitter as he explores the impact that neurological rehabilitation, and in particular intensive rehab and robotics can have on our patients’ mental health:

Neurorehabilitation and mental health are closely linked, as the health of the brain and the mind are interconnected. Neurorehabilitation is a specialised field of healthcare that focuses on restoring and improving the functioning of the nervous system, often following injuries or diseases that affect the brain and spinal cord. This field can have a significant impact on mental health in several ways:

Emotional Well-Being

Neurological injuries or diseases can have a profound impact on a person’s emotional well-being. Conditions like stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and neurodegenerative diseases can lead to mood disorders, anxiety, and depression. Neurorehabilitation helps individuals regain physical and cognitive function, which, in turn, can improve their emotional well-being.

Cognitive Function

Neurorehab often includes cognitive rehabilitation, which helps individuals recover or compensate for cognitive deficits resulting from neurological conditions. This can improve memory, attention, and problem-solving skills, all of which are essential for good mental health.

Our robotics equipment, MYRO in particular, delivers task-orientated rehab and immersive games, with a sensor-based surface and real objects to improve range of motion, touch, force control and hand-eye co-ordination. Using the Myro, the therapist can individualise the treatment to be highly flexible, motivating, task orientated and most importantly, enjoyable.

Social Integration

Many neurological conditions can lead to social isolation and feelings of alienation. Neurorehab programs often focus on helping individuals reintegrate into their communities and re-establish social connections, which can positively impact their mental health.

The Rehab Physio’s intensive programme takes place in a collaborative environment where patients have the opportunity to meet others with similar conditions or injuries and witness the progress that they are making.  For many, they face feelings of isolation and loneliness when they start treatment so to be with others for for 4 hours a day over a 3,4 or 5 week period has a massive impact on their mental wellbeing.

Pain Management

Chronic pain is common in many neurological conditions. Effective pain management is critical not only for physical comfort but also for mental well-being. Neurorehabilitation may include pain management strategies to help individuals cope with and reduce pain.

Psychological Support

Neurorehab teams often include psychologists and psychiatrists who can provide essential psychological support to individuals and their families. These professionals can help individuals cope with the emotional and psychological challenges that often accompany neurological conditions.

Self-Esteem and Confidence

Neurorehab aims to help individuals regain independence and a sense of control over their lives. As patients make progress in their rehabilitation, their self-esteem and confidence can improve, positively impacting their mental health.

Technology allows patients with limited movement to function in virtual reality, allowing them to succeed at tasks and see progress, in a way which has previously not been possible.  As this is repeated and summated, self-esteem and confidence builds.

Family and Caregiver Support

Neurorehab often extends support to family members and caregivers, who play a vital role in the recovery process. Addressing their mental health and providing education on how to support their loved ones can reduce caregiver burden and stress.

Prevention of Secondary Conditions

Neurorehab can also focus on preventing secondary health issues that can negatively affect mental health. For example, by improving mobility and physical health, the risk of conditions like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems can be reduced.

In summary, neurorehab is a multidisciplinary approach to improving the physical and cognitive functioning of individuals with neurological conditions. As it addresses these issues, it also has a significant impact on mental health by improving emotional well-being, cognitive function, social integration, and overall quality of life for individuals and their families.

One of The Rehab Physio’s patients, Wayne explains how neuro rehab made a positive impact on his mental health.  Wayne had a motorbike accident in 2017 and suffered a C1-C2 spinal cord injury.  He spent the next 6 months in acute rehab in the NHS and made enough progress to be able to walk out of hospital.  However in August 2018 he went back into hospital to have colostomy reversal surgery which resulted in spasticity (ie. an abnormal increase in muscle tone or stiffness) which had a severe impact on his mobility.  Wayne explains how attending The Rehab Physio’s intensive rehab programme had a positive affect on his confidence and motivation: