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  • Writer's pictureEngage PT, OT, SLP Therapy and Wellness

What is Functional Neurological Disorder (FND)?

Functional Neurological Disorder (FND), previously known as Conversion Disorder, is a condition in which a person experiences neurological symptoms such as weakness, movement disorders, sensory symptoms, or seizures that are not consistent with any known neurological or medical conditions. The symptoms are thought to be related to how the brain functions rather than any structural or organic problem.

FND is believed to be caused by a combination of physical, psychological, and social factors. It often occurs in response to stressful or traumatic events, but the exact cause is not fully understood. Diagnosis is typically made after other possible neurological conditions have been ruled out through medical evaluations and tests.

Treatment for FND usually involves a multidisciplinary approach, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, physical therapy, and sometimes medication to manage symptoms or co-occurring conditions such as anxiety or depression. The outlook for FND varies depending on the individual and the severity of symptoms, but many people improve with treatment.

The easiest way to explain FND is thinking about a computer! In individuals with FND, there is nothing wrong with the hardware part of the computer system. This is why when you or someone you know are seeking answers, you may be told that your brain, body, and neurological tests are all coming back normal or typical. FND is better thought about as a software problem. This is similar to when you open up your laptop on a random Wednesday and nothing will load! You bring it to the computer store and they tell you everything about your laptop is intact, but for some reason, you cannot figure out why the internet is slow or everything is taking extra long to fully load. The same thing can happen with our brain and body connection!

Physical therapy can play a crucial role in the management of Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) by addressing the physical symptoms and improving overall function and quality of life. Here's how physical therapy can help:

  1. Improving Mobility and Function: Physical therapists can design personalized exercise programs to improve strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination, which can help alleviate symptoms such as weakness, gait abnormalities, and movement disorders.

  2. Pain Management: Physical therapy techniques such as manual therapy, stretching, and therapeutic exercises can help reduce pain and discomfort associated with FND.

  3. Education and Self-Management: Physical therapists can educate patients about FND, help them understand their symptoms, and teach them self-management strategies to cope with symptoms and prevent exacerbations.

  4. Addressing Fear and Avoidance Behaviors: Physical therapists can help patients gradually reintroduce physical activities and movements they may have been avoiding due to fear or discomfort, which can improve function and quality of life.

  5. Improving Quality of Life: By addressing physical symptoms and improving overall function, physical therapy can help improve the quality of life for individuals with FND.

  6. Promoting a Parasympathetic State: In most cases, a lot of folks we see here at Engage with FND are stuck in a "fight or flight" state. When this happens, the messaging between our brain and our body can go awry. When your body is still, but your nervous system is on overload, there can be a lot of confusion between your brain and the rest of your body, which may be why you are experiencing extraneous movements, seizure-like episodes, or functional tics. We can help you learn to retrain your brain to welcome the parasympathetic (rest and digest) state to improve your symptoms.

It's important to note that physical therapy for FND should be tailored to the individual's specific symptoms and needs, and it is often most effective when integrated into a multidisciplinary treatment approach that may include psychological therapy and other interventions.

Does this sound like you or somebody you know? There are things we can do to help! Come see us at Engage Therapy and Wellness! See you soon!

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