Physical Exercises for Treating Spinocerebellar Ataxia

Spinocerebellar Ataxia is a degenerative genetic disease which can affect anyone regardless of age, gender and physical health. Indeed, according to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, those suffering from spinocerebellar ataxia may not realise until their children begin exhibiting symptoms associated with the illness.

As of writing, there are no known methods of treating spinocerebellar ataxia, and it is considered a progressively degenerative and irreversible disease: however, there exists several physical exercises and programmes of rehabilitation which can assist sufferers of the illness in maintaining their physical independence.

A programme of rehabilitation includes several exercises based on maintaining balance, range of motion and gait (the manner in which a person walks). It is important that the exercise is not too stressful: after all, strength and conditioning training is designed to attack the nervous system to accommodate increasingly stressful loads, thus strengthening it. Spinocerebellar ataxia progressively weakens the patient’s nervous system, and therefore the stress of an intense training session may intensify the problem. Exercise is designed to be therapeutic. As was written earlier, it is not possible begin treating and curing spinocerebellar ataxia. However, as several studies have shown, exercising the areas which are affected by the illness is a beneficial move: according to a study by Trujillo, Serrano and Monton, 6 months of exercises and physical therapy for treating the consequences of the illness, patients witnessed a marked improvement in what they called several ‘neurological indices.’

As the patient will soon begin to lose their balance and coordinative capabilities, it is prudent to begin strengthening the arms and wrists for the eventual utilisation of a cane or walking stick. A walking stick is to aid the patient after suffering a loss of balance. It is essential that the patient trains both sides equally because unequal and asymmetrical muscle development can further hinder balance. Make sure the patient trains both sides equally.

Therapists and treatment specialists identify several key areas with which training is supposed to help:

  • Improving one’s balance and posture
  • Developing the use of upper limbs and core
  • Improving posture and joint stabilisation
  • Helping the patient achieve a suitable and correct method of walking (gait)

According to the University of Buffalo, there are six principles of training a physiologist must observe in order to maximise the help to the patient:

  • Exercise should move from conscious practice to unconscious motions
  • Exercise should gradually increase in complexity
  • The patient should progress from training with the eyes open to with the eyes closed
  • Coordination is of prime importance
  • Supportive and complimentary aids and implements should be utilised when necessary
  • The patient should be able to utilise a training programme at home