Stimulating the Mind & Body of those with Chronic Illness and Physical Disabilities

Dec 19, 2013
Tagged with: Stimulating the Mind & Body of those with Chronic Illness and Physical Disabilities

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly two million cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI) occur each year. This condition can manifest in a number of ways, but one of the most difficult to deal with is the loss of physical and cognitive function. Patients may experience reduced strength, impaired speech, and poor coordination, problems with movement, lack of feeling, memory loss, pain or unpleasant sensations.
Naturally, these symptoms can get in the way of everyday life, and they can be depressing to deal with. However, all is not hopeless. With some medical support, emotional support and your own effort and dedication, it’s possible to recapture your ability to function effectively. Here are some things that can help.

For someone with a TBI, playing games can be fun as well as therapeutic. Some games, such as match-the-cards, Simon, go fish and certain word games stimulate the memory centers, which can help them get back up to speed. Essentially, memory stimulation games forge new pathways in these areas of the brain as you play them, which enhance function with time. Other games can also help by improving overall cognition, reforming executive function skills, developing hand-eye coordination and bolstering awareness of one’s environment. In recent years, it’s been discovered that even video games can provide incredible benefits for people recovering from TBI, and many have been created exclusively for the purpose.

For someone whose coordination and motor control has been damaged by a brain injury, an artistic hobby may seem futile. However, there’s no rule that says you have to be a Picasso. Even the simplest artistic activities can open up the path toward recovery. Depending on your level of ability, you may want to start small. Something like a child’s coloring book is a great place to begin. The large images and thick lines will make it easier to color within them, yet it may still prove challenging. As your coordination and motor skills improve, move on to progressively more complicated pictures. If you don’t like coloring, doodling and painting are also excellent options.

A brain injury can also result in difficulty with words and reading comprehension from damage in the brain’s language centers. One way to combat this and re-train the brain for these tasks is to simply pick up a book. Start with a book you struggle with slightly and keep going until you can handle increasingly complex material.

Exercise is important for maintaining health, but it’s also essential for restoring it. It’s not uncommon for someone with a TBI to suffer from physical impairments with movement or feeling, and exercise can be highly effective for restoring these functions. One way it does this is by enhancing circulation throughout the body, which delivers more nutrients and oxygen, helps facilitate tissue repair and encourages the production of new brain cells. Another way it works is by re-training the brain’s motor control regions through physical stimulation. A physical therapist may be able to recommend specific exercises based on your area and degree of impairment.

Good Nutrition
Good nutrition is the cornerstone to a speedy and productive recovery. Many vitamins and minerals play critical roles in healthy brain function and repair, yet the average person’s diet is often lacking. When undergoing therapy for a TBI, it’s strongly recommended to eat a healthy diet. This can be especially helpful if you’re also suffering from nerve pain, multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia. Nutrients like B12, zinc, copper, calcium, magnesium, sodium, vitamin C, omega-3 and potassium are all heavily involved in the repair, maintenance and signaling of the body’s nerves. Deficiency is known to cause or exacerbate cognitive and motor problems as well as neuropathy.

Talk to Others
Last, but certainly not least, is socialization, which can help in so many ways. Interacting with other people can help repair damaged speech, language and other brain centers that affect social interaction. It can also greatly improve your recovery prognosis. Numerous studies have shown that having a strong support network has a significant positive effect on the outcome of a person’s illness or disability. Meanwhile people with a poor support network fared worse. If you need help, support, advice or encouragement, consider taking solace online groups for other victims of TBI, such as TryMunity.


Author: Shelly Duell