Rehabilitation for Brain & Spine Tumor Patients
Brain tumors and brain tumor treatment can lead to a variety of physical problems and disabilities. The physicians and caregivers in the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department of Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin can help patients manage these problems through a variety of medical and therapeutic interventions.
The rehabilitation team’s objective is to help patients regain as much function, comfort and independence as possible. The care team works with patients to understand their goals and craft solutions that meet their specific situations.
Treating Hemiplegia and Spasticity
Hemiplegia is weakness and loss of function on one side of the body. It is seen most often in people who have had a stroke, but it can affect brain tumor patients.
Hemiplegia in brain tumor patients is often accompanied by muscle spasticity. Some patients experience musculoskeletal pain, including a condition known as frozen shoulder, an inflammation of the shoulder joint that causes immobility. Treatments for these conditions include physical therapy, medications, gait training, and occupational therapy.
Special exercises can stretch and strengthen the patient’s muscles, alleviating the symptoms of hemiplegia, spasticity and frozen shoulder.
Spasticity can be treated with medications, and Botox can be helpful in improving muscle function. Various medications are available for musculoskeletal pain.
Patients with hemiplegia can experience difficulty walking. Gait training can help them overcome balance and vision problems and weakness.
Patients learn how to compensate for loss of function in performing the activities of daily life.
Responding to the Consequences of Treatment
Some patients who receive chemotherapy develop peripheral neuropathy — damage to the peripheral nerves that can result in numbness in the feet, balance problems and difficulty walking. Gait training and other interventions can help many patients who develop these problems.
Radiation therapy for brain tumors can sometimes lead to cognitive side effects and deficits. The physicians of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department coordinate with the Neuro-Oncology Cognitive Clinic to help patients manage these issues. Options include speech therapy, memory improvement strategies and various cognitive exercises.
Patients with spinal tumors can access full rehabilitation services through the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin SpineCare Program. This multidisciplinary clinic includes physician specialists and therapists who can help patients regain function following spine surgery and treatment.