Physiotherapy for MND

26 Oct, 2020

What is MND?

Motor Neuron Disease (MND) is the name given to a group of diseases that affect motor nerves, called neurons, in the brain and spinal cord. These neurons fail to work as intended and have difficulty telling the muscles what to do. This causes the affected muscles to become weak and waste away, which can lead to difficulties with movement, speech, breathing and swallowing. MND is progressive, meaning that the disease starts slowly and gets worse over time. Symptoms often start on one side of the body and then spread. 

Motor Neuron Disease

Signs & Symptoms of MND can include:

  • Muscle weakness, causing a loss of muscle mass and movement and mobility problems.
  • Weakness in the hands can cause difficulty with gripping and holding objects.
  • Weakness in the legs can cause regular tripping or falls.
  • Weakness in the shoulders can cause problems with lifting objects. 
  • Joint stiffness, which can limit the range of motion.
  • Cramps, muscle twitching and spasms.
  • Weakness of the tongue and facial muscles, which can cause speech and communication difficulties (slurred speech, facial expressions)
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Thickened saliva
  • Weakened coughing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Changes to thinking and behaviour

MND affects everyone differently; symptoms can be different in each individual and the progression of the disease can affect people at different rates. 

How is MND diagnosed?

MND diagnosis can be challenging, as this disease often presents similarly to many other conditions. A range of tests can help to rule out the possibility of other causes. A GP can provide a referral to a neurologist. Depending on the presenting symptoms, the neurologist may perform a range of tests, including:

  • Clinical examination.
  • A blood test that looks for an increase in creatine kinase, which increases in the blood when muscles break down.
  • Electromyography (EMG) that tests the natural nerve impulses within a muscle.
  • Nerve conduction test.
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

How can we help?

MND cannot be stopped or reversed, but Allied Health intervention (in combination with equipment and medication) can assist with symptom management, to improve quality of life. 

Physiotherapists work closely with the client to develop an individualised exercise program, which can help to maintain or improve strength in the muscles that are not affected by MND. Stretching and soft tissue release techniques can assist in maintaining flexibility in the muscles that are affected by MND and prevent joint stiffness. Treatment can also involve pain management techniques, such as soft tissue massage.

Motor Neuron Disease

Physiotherapy can also assist clients with breathing difficulties to help clear their chest and maintain lung capacity with specialised breathing exercises and airway clearance techniques. 

Hydrotherapy is beneficial in the management of MND symptoms. Physiotherapists utilise the properties of water to improve mobility, strengthen weakened muscles, maintain joint range of motion and improve lung capacity.

A multidisciplinary team of allied health professionals is recommended to manage MND holistically. At Gen Physio, we have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing the lives of our clients. All of our clinicians are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination. Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today. 


Written by Charlotte Whitham

Motor Neuron Disease

Charlotte graduated from Central Queensland University in 2019, with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy (First Class Honours). Throughout her clinical experiences, Charlotte gained practical skills and applied knowledge in the following physiotherapy areas: musculoskeletal, neurological, cardiorespiratory, orthopaedics and paediatrics.

In 2018, Charlotte volunteered for a 3-week clinical experience in Thailand, where she provided physiotherapy treatment to abandoned children with a disability. It was from these experiences that Charlotte found her passion for paediatrics and neurological rehabilitation.  

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