Physical Therapy and TBIs

Intrepid Spirit Center Physical Therapist Joseph Blackburn takes a reading in the center’s Vestibular Rehabilitation Room where diagnostic capabilities and treatment therapies for balance and vestibular disorders are combined to maximize the recovery potential of each individual.

Every traumatic brain injury (TBI) is different. The human brain controls and maintains such a wide range of the body’s functions, that a slight difference in a brain injury-causing impact can make a significant difference in how the body is affected by the brain injury. For that reason, physical therapy (PT) is often an important component of recovery for service members at our Intrepid Spirit Centers.

The basics of PT are somewhat self-explanatory: it addresses a patient’s physical issues, predominantly pain, movement, or physical impairments. There are three phases of healing: diagnosis, and then recovery, which comes in restorative and preventative phases. Physical therapists guide their patients through all three of these phases. 

When it comes to TBI patients, physical therapists are presented with a challenge. Since the brain can affect so many different aspects of the human body, care providers need to be well-versed in their techniques to properly diagnose and treat TBI patients. Unlike, for example, a leg injury, which might only affect a single area of a single leg, a brain injury could affect a person’s ability to walk, talk, and even their comprehension skills. 

Joseph Blackburn, physical therapist at the Intrepid Spirit Center at Eglin Air Force Base elaborates on this further, explaining that traditional PT often focuses on orthopedic and musculoskeletal management. At Intrepid Spirit Centers though, the PT focus is often on “vestibular and neurological functions,” because the root of a TBI patient’s issues typically lies in the brain. For this reason, sensory motor testing, visual testing, and vestibular testing are utilized to help identify where impairments may originate, so that they can be best informed on how to treat them. 

It’s important to remember that there isn’t a quick fix to treating TBIs, Mr. Blackburn reminds us: “The responsibility falls back on the patient to be proactive about their health, both civilians and service members.” It’s a group effort recovering from a TBI, and PT is oftentimes one piece in an elaborate puzzle of recovery practices. However that one piece can play a critical role due to how the brain can affect so many aspects of physical health. PT is a foundational element of recovery at our Intrepid Spirit Centers, which are specially built and equipped to treat service members’ invisible wounds of war, including TBI. Learn more about our mission, and help us break ground on our next center with a donation


Posted on October 5 2020 in Blog

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