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Alternative Approaches for People with Disabilities
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Alternative Approaches for People with Disabilities

Individualized treatment plans for people with disabilities are usually administered by a team of healthcare professionals and based on the severity of the disability, but treatment can come in a variety of forms.

People with physical disabilities often consult practitioners who use complementary and alternative procedures because it’s yet another way to treat pain and address decreased functioning. Let’s focus on a few areas of treatment and the possible advantages of each.

The Power of Touch

Massage therapy has proven health and wellness benefits for many, including those with debilitating diseases and conditions, brain and spinal cord injuries and developmental disabilities.

From a purely physical standpoint, massage could provide some pain relief and help someone walk better or avoid being bound to a wheelchair. Therapists work to help patients improve muscle function, circulation, balance and flexibility, among other things.

“Those (using) a wheelchair for any reason may suffer from atrophied muscle tone, skin breakdown resulting from the constant pressure and reduced circulation that occurs, spasticity and spasms in muscle tissue, and reduced cardiovascular health,” writes massage therapist Leslie DeMatteo.

Massage could be incorporated as part of overall care under appropriate circumstances and with qualified therapists who’ve worked with people with disabilities.

From a mental and emotional standpoint, massage is also freeing to the mind and body, says Gary Carp, a “well-known speaker in disability circles.”

“We hold our emotions in our bodies,” Carp said. “Like muscle memory, our bodies act as a repository for past emotions that have not been fully expressed. Under the guidance and skilled hands of my friend, Rolfing opened up my emotions. I had the most amazing cathartic cleansing. I cried like I had never cried before. And when it was over, I felt like I had experienced a new beginning.”

Massage therapy is a powerful tool that’s beneficial to all types of people with varying needs — with availability in different settings, including clinics, hospitals, businesses, and, of course, spas. Home massage services, like Body Well Therapy, are also available throughout the country for people who have difficulty leaving home.

Eye Solutions

Good eyesight is something many of us take for granted, but for people who can’t effectively communicate about vision problems they may be having, getting proper eye care can be a challenge.

Developmentally disabled children are especially vulnerable. This is why there are referral systems available to help children with blurred vision or legal blindness get the treatment they need.

One such referral system is happening in St. Louis. Neurologist Jan Brunstrom and pediatric ophthalmologist Lawrence Tychsen have teamed up to treat children with special needs who have impaired eyesight. The special needs children Brunstrom works with often receive diagnoses in several areas. If she determines her patient has impaired eyesight, she will send them to Tychsen for further evaluation.

“Children who have profound neuro-behavioral problems have great difficulty wearing glasses,” Tychsen said. “Most of the time they didn’t have glasses on, where the glasses were broken or lost, or they left them on their head. They went through life with profoundly blurred vision to the point of legal blindness.

One of his most common surgeries is a variation of Lasik and intraocular implants, which have a 90 percent or greater success rate. Usually, Lasik isn’t performed on people under the age of 21 because the eye changes shape until young adulthood. In about 10 percent of his patients, Tychsen has to redo their surgery as they grow older.

Pregnancy & Midwives

Midwives are trained professionals who assist women before, during and after childbirth. They may deliver babies at home, birthing centers or in hospitals. Women with physical disabilities or chronic illness need special care, which is why midwives need to know how to work with different populations.

Approval from an attending physician is required if the disability could impact the birthing process or the newborn. Midwives and doctors work in tandem to produce the best results for the mother and child. Like a doctor, a midwife can do the following, according to WebMD:

  • Conduct prenatal exams and order tests
  • Tend to physical and psychological health
  • Make birth plans
  • Provide education about what to expect during pregnancy and childbirth and best practices for newborn care
  • Offer emotional and practical support during labor

Because special care is sometimes required, a new parent needs to consider the costs outside of a brief hospital stay. For a vaginal or cesarean delivery without complications, the average birth costs $10,000 to $15,000. However, these costs don’t take into consideration pre-baby financial planning and preparation or any unforeseen issues that may arise. Budgeting for out-of-pocket expenses is a big part of having a baby whether you use a midwife or not.

In a previous Rolling Without Limits post, a woman talks about giving birth as a person with quadriplegia. To read about her experience, check it out here.

As you can see, there are a variety of ways to go about treatment depending on the person’s needs and type of disability. Alternative forms of therapy don’t work for everyone, but an integrative approach to health and well-being may just be what the doctor ordered.

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