Making Muscles Move Again

August 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Whether it's the aftermath of a stroke, surgery, or a bad accident, retraining the muscles to move again is a long and frustrating process. Now, new therapies are helping three women jumpstart their brains and their lives.Walking, reaching, and smiling are simple movements that some patients are struggling to get back.

Five years ago, surgeons removed a tumor from Linda Beougher's brain. She was left with severe nerve damage and lost part of herself.

"You want to smile, but your face doesn't always do what you want to do," Beougher told Ivanhoe.

Therapists are using patterned electrical neuromuscular stimulation (PENS) on Beougher's neck. The quick pulses remind her facial muscles how to work.

"Once you kind of kick it into it, and say, 'OK, remember, this is the way we need to work,' then it will start doing it more and more," Jodi S. Barth, P.T., from National Rehabilitation Hospital inRockville, Md., told Ivanhoe.

In a couple of months, Beougher saw a great improvement.

"One day soon, I'll see my smile again," she said.

The same technology is also helping 18-year-old Margo Serarols learn how to walk again.

"Everything about me just kind of changed," Serarols told Ivanhoe.

Serarols had a stroke during her sleep, spent weeks in a coma and five months in the hospital.

With the pads on her legs, the electrical currents simulate the way her leg muscles typically interact with each other.

"I see myself walking more normally," Serarols said.

Normal is something Lousea Foster strives for in every session. A stroke also paralyzed her right side.

She's now using this robotic brace to get her arm function back. This one works without electricity.

"The robot that's embedded in that brace helps the patient move the arm," Stephen Page, Ph.D., an assoc. professor of rehabilitation at the University of Cincinnati, told Ivanhoe.

Progress is slow, but these women see potential.

"Everything is possible when you have hope," Beougher said.

Hoping a combination of technology and determination will get them moving again.

The PENS therapies are used to help people with muscle tears, osteoarthritis, back and joint pain, neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome and pinched nerves.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Jodi Barth, PT
National Rehabilitation Hospital, Montrose Center
Rockville, MD
(301) 984-6594

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