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ALS Rehabilitation

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. The disease belongs to a group of disorders known as motor neuron diseases, which are characterized by the gradual degeneration and death of motor neurons.

Motor neurons are nerve cells located in the brain, brainstem and spinal cord that serve as controlling units and vital communication links between the nervous system and the voluntary muscles of the body. Messages from the motor neurons in the brain (called upper motor neurons) are transmitted to motor neurons in the spinal cord (called lower motor neurons) and from them to particular muscles. In ALS, both the upper motor neurons and the lower motor neurons degenerate or die, ceasing to send messages to muscles. Unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken, waste away and twitch. Eventually, the ability of the brain to start and control voluntary movement is lost.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

ALS causes weakness with a wide range of disabilities. Eventually, all muscles under voluntary control are affected, and patients lose their strength and the ability to move their arms, legs and body. When muscles in the diaphragm and chest wall fail, patients lose the ability to breathe without ventilatory support.

Because ALS affects only motor neurons, the disease does not impair a person’s mind, personality, intelligence or memory. Nor does it affect a person’s ability to see, smell, taste, hear or recognize touch. Patients usually maintain control of eye muscles and bladder and bowel functions.

What are the symptoms of ALS?

The onset of ALS may be so subtle that the symptoms are frequently overlooked. The earliest symptoms may include:

  • Twitching
  • Cramping
  • Stiffness of muscles
  • Muscle weakness affecting an arm or a leg
  • Slurred and nasal speech
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing

These general complaints then develop into more obvious weakness or atrophy that may cause a physician to suspect ALS.

Managing ALS with Ongoing Rehabilitation

ALS rehabilitation includes physical, occupational, speech, and respiratory therapy. Patients diagnosed with ALS who integrate rehabilitation into their overall treatment plan benefit in a number of ways:

  • Cope with and manage their disease
  • Delay symptoms associated with their diagnosis
  • Prevent falls
  • Reduce risk for injuries
  • Reduce pain
  • Maintain functionality for longer periods of time
  • Prolong their lives

Contact Us

Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network specialists are experts in caring for patients who have been diagnosed with ALS. For more information or to request a tour of our inpatient facility in Allentown, please call 1-888-44-REHAB or fill out the form below.

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