Could Yoga Help Rehabilitate Those With TBI-Related Disabilities?

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Source: Wikimedia Commons / Joffers951

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Joffers951

Could an adapted form of yoga be used to help treat individuals who have experienced stroke or traumatic brain injury? That is what is report from an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) study claims, saying adapted yoga can help adults who have experienced TBI improve balance, flexibility, strength, endurance, and walking speed following their injury.

The researchers say the findings lead them to believe adapted yoga may offer unique health benefits compared to traditional exercise routines used to rehabilitate TBI patients. The additional benefits seen through the practice could be due to an integration of mind, body, and spirit, according to the report.

“This is potentially of great importance because of the mind/body disconnect that is common after a traumatic brain injury,” the researchers concluded.

Over 1.7 million Americans sustain brain injuries every year, with many of those people experiencing post-TBI disabilities. However, Kristine Miller, assistant professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences’ Department of Physical Therapy says the number of rehabilitation sessions for most patients after a TBI being limited.

“Therapeutic yoga is one option we’ve latched onto to see if it can help fill that gap,” Miller said. “One of the things about yoga that is different from traditional rehabilitation exercises is that it is more whole-body focused. It helps people learn to take their nervous systems to a more calm and relaxed state, which helps with healing.”

For this study, the team examined the impact of an eight-week yoga program delivered in a one-to-one setting for three people. After the program ended, the participants showed a 36% improvement in balance, 39% increase in balance confidence, 100% increase in lower-extremity strength, and 105% increase in endurance.

Adapted yoga is a form of yoga designed specifically with individuals with physical impairments in mind. For example, many movements may be done from a sitting position, such as a wheelchair or a sturdy seat. The participants are also encouraged to not perform movements they are uncomfortable with.

The study was very limited by the number of participants, but the researchers say the findings are enough to begin testing the adapted yoga in community-based settings.

“We hope to determine whether it is possible to translate the results of the previous studies conducted in a controlled research environment into a sustainable program in the community,” Miller said. “If we accomplish that, our long-term goal is to develop additional adapted programs for people with other chronic disabilities.”

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