I have been working with my physical therapist, Kelli, for a year and a half. She is brilliant at what she does and has become a dear friend. I am so thankful to have her by my side as we fight Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) together.
She was kind enough to speak to me about physical therapy (PT) for an FA patient. Following are her responses to some of my questions:
What did you think when you learned you would be treating a patient with FA? What is the most challenging aspect of treating an FA patient?
Honestly, I had never heard of FA and had to do a lot of research to educate myself on the condition and how I could help. The most challenging part of treating an FA patient is giving difficult advice such as a recommendation to transition to a walker.
What is the most rewarding part of treating an FA patient?
The resilience, faith, and strength I witness every week. I have never treated a patient who lives with such a passion for life.
How do you plan to combat a progressive disease with PT?
I discover what activities my patient loves, for example, volleyball, boxing, Pilates, etc., and adapt these exercises to allow her to continue to be active. I focus on maintaining and building strength and improving balance. Every stage of FA will bring different challenges, and a physical therapist can help ease the transition.
What muscle groups should those FA patients who can still walk focus on?
Core, quads, and glutes are the best areas to target to enable you to keep moving. A strong core helps you to maintain your balance when you walk because where your trunk goes your body follows.