Thursday, April 12, 2018

U of L therapy provides hope for victims of movement disorder

A neurologist at the University of Louisville has developed a rehabilitation program for functional movement disorder, a recently defined condition manifested by unusual, involuntary movements or body positions. It is one of only a few in the nation, and has a high success rate, says a news release from U of L Physicians.

Kathrin LaFaver, director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Clinic at the university, modeled the Motor Retraining Program after one at the Mayo Clinic. It combines neurological treatment, psychological counseling, and physical and occupational therapy during a week-long inpatient therapy that aims to improve patients’ motor symptoms, help them regain control over abnormal movements and develop better coping skills.

Kathrin LaFaver, M.D.
“Functional disorders are in the borderland between neurology and psychiatry, and there is a lack of treatment programs for the conditions,” LaFaver said in the release. “Diagnostic tests do not reveal a cause for the FMD, so patients experiencing symptoms often are told by neurologists that ‘nothing is wrong,’ and may be referred to a psychiatrist.”

FMD patients often complain of fatigue and difficulties with concentration and thinking. The disorder can be triggered by psychological or physical stress or trauma, and is not revealed in traditional imaging or other diagnostics, the release says.

Patients from 25 states have undergone the therapy at UofL. More than 85 percent of patients have shown improvement in their symptoms after one week of treatment, and 69 percent report the improvement of symptoms was maintained after six months, the release says.

One was Julia Semple of Delaware, who "spent 10 years trying to figure out what was wrong," the release says.

“It started with my head sort of twitching back and forth, like when you shake your head ‘no.’ It was completely involuntary,” Semple explained. “It progressed to other areas of my body over time. You know when you relax and you have a little twitch? Imagine that except a hundred times bigger and over and over again so you could never fall asleep. It was horrible.”

The disorder "interfered with Semple’s sleep as well as her work as a massage therapist and dancer," the release says. "Semple experienced significant improvement during her week of intensive therapy tailored to her individual needs and symptoms."

Semple said, “After a decade of people telling me ‘take a vacation,’ or ‘there is nothing wrong with you,’ the care at UofL and Frazier was the best ever. Everyone – whatever their part was – they really cared. . . . All of my life was wrapped up in trying to manage these symptoms. The treatment literally gave me my life back.”

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