What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome?
Guillain-Barré (Ghee-YAN Bah-RAY) syndrome (GBS) is a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the peripheral nervous system and causes weakness and numbness in the legs, arms, and upper body due to damage to the myelin sheath. The symptoms of GBS can range from mild to severe, and the exact cause of the condition is not known. While the focus of treatment for GBS is typically on supportive care and immune-modulating therapies, physical therapy and exercise can also play a crucial role in the recovery process.
Exercising with Guillain-Barré Syndrome
Physical therapy and exercise are essential for people with GBS to regain strength, coordination, and functional independence. Initially, passive range-of-motion exercises may be prescribed to prevent joint stiffness, followed by bed mobility exercises to build strength and coordination. As the patient’s condition improves, more active exercises may be prescribed to improve cardiovascular fitness, increase muscle strength, and promote functional independence.
However, it is important to approach exercise and physical therapy with caution for individuals with GBS. Rapid or excessive movements can cause a temporary worsening of symptoms in some individuals with the condition. As a result, an individualised treatment plan is recommended to ensure a safe and effective rehabilitation process.
A study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry found that physical therapy and rehabilitation can significantly improve the functional status of patients with GBS. The study participants underwent a comprehensive physical therapy programme that included bed mobility, transfers, and gait training. The results showed that the participants had improved strength, coordination, and functional independence following the therapy programme.
Another study published in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine found that early rehabilitation and physical therapy can lead to better outcomes for patients with GBS. The study participants underwent an intensive physical therapy programme that included exercises to improve joint mobility, strength, and balance. The results showed that the participants had improved functional independence and quality of life following the therapy programme.
In conclusion, exercise and physical therapy can play a crucial role in the recovery process for people with Guillain-Barré syndrome. However, it is important to approach exercise and physical therapy with caution and to develop an individualised treatment plan to ensure a safe and effective rehabilitation process.
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1) Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry (2002) “Physical therapy and rehabilitation in Guillain-Barré syndrome”
2) European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (2015) “Early rehabilitation in Guillain-Barré syndrome: a prospective study”