Physiotherapy after neurosurgery

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Detailed information on the importance of physiotherapy and exercise to the rehabilitation process after neurosurgery.

Key points

  • After surgery, your child may see a physiotherapist to help identify and overcome new physical challenges.
  • As a parent/caregiver you will be taught how to safely help your child to move out of bed and around your home.
  • Your child may work with a physiotherapist while at the hospital and be given exercises to restore movement, to improve strength and to challenge their balance safely.

When it is determined that your child may benefit from doing exercises, physical therapists, also called physiotherapists, will help your child overcome challenges and may show you some exercises. Once your child is at home, they may need to continue using the services of a physiotherapist in the community.

The physiotherapist will recommend any equipment that might be required for your child to use at home to help them move around your home and in the community safely. The therapist can also help with arranging for physiotherapy in the community if needed.

Neck exercises after neurosurgery

After neurosurgery (brain surgery), it is common for your child’s neck muscles to be sore and they may not be able to move their neck very far. Your child’s physiotherapist will choose which exercises are the most appropriate after surgery and will ensure you know how to do them correctly.

A few points to remember:

  • These exercises are commonly used but might not be included in your child’s individualized program.
  • Your child should do all the movements by themself — do not stretch your child’s neck.
  • If your child is too young to perform exercises on their own, your physiotherapist will give you the appropriate instruction on activities that will help your child regain neck movement.
  • Your child should do these exercises while sitting down, with their arms resting comfortably on their lap.
  • Each exercise should be done until your child feels a mild discomfort from the stretch.
  • You might find it helpful to sit in front of your child and place your hands on their shoulders to prevent their shoulders from moving. This ensures that the movement comes from your child’s neck.

Try these neck exercises:

  • Boy holding chin to chest

    Neck flexion: Have your child slowly bring their chin towards their chest. Hold for 10 seconds and straighten back to the starting position.

  • Boy tilting head back to look upward

    Next extension: Have your child slowly look up towards the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds and return to the starting position.

  • Boy with head bent to one side to hold his ear to his shoulder

    Neck side flexion: Have your child slowly bring their ear towards their shoulder on the right side. Hold for 10 seconds and bring the head back upright. Repeat to the left side. Make sure your child doesn’t lift their shoulder up to touch their ear.

  • Boy with head turned to one side so that his chin is pointed toward his shoulder

    Neck rotation: Have your child slowly turn their chin towards their shoulder on the right side. Hold for 10 seconds and return to face forward. Repeat slowly on the other side.

Balance exercises after neurosurgery

Your child might find it more difficult to balance because of the tumour, the surgery, or both. You can help your child to do some exercises to improve their balance when they go home from the hospital. Check with your child’s physiotherapist before doing these.

A few points to remember:

  • Make sure that an adult is always present.
  • Do these activities a few times a day.
  • Pick 2 or 3 activities to work on at a time.
  • These exercises are generally suitable for children aged 5 and up and for children who are able to walk safely on their own without losing their balance.
  • If your child cannot safely walk on their own, your physiotherapist will give you different exercises.

Try these balance exercises:

  • Girl walking along a straight line with one foot in front of the other

    Practise walking on a curb with 1 foot in front of the other. Or put a piece of masking tape on the ground/floor and practice walking with 1 foot in front of the other.

  • Girl standing on one leg with her arms held out to the sides

    Practise standing on 1 leg. Count how long your child can hold this position. Try to beat this record each time.

  • Girl standing on one leg with her arms held out to the sides

    Once your child can balance on 1 leg easily, stand on the right leg and practise bending the right knee 5 times. Repeat with the left leg.

  • Girl holding a ball out in front of her with both hands

    Play catch with your child. Once they can do this, make it more challenging by throwing the ball to the right or left side, up high or down low.

  • Girl kicking a ball

    Practise kicking a ball with your child. Make it more challenging by kicking the ball to your right or left side so that they have to step and reach for the ball.

  • Girl walking sideways with feet apart

    Practise walking backwards or sideways.

  • Girl walking up and down stairs with no railing

    Practise walking upstairs or downstairs without holding onto a railing.

  • Walking on toes

    Practise walking on the toes and on the heels.

  • Girl standing on one leg with her arms held out to the sides

    Practise playing "Simon says" with your child. Use different movements to make it harder if it gets too easy.

  • Girl hitting a balloon in the air

    Practise hitting a balloon back and forth with your child. Make sure there is lots of open space to avoid tripping.

  • Girl tracing the letter M in the air with her finger

    Practise drawing numbers or letters in the air with the arms or legs.

  • Girl stepping over a small bag on the floor

    Practise stepping up onto a step and back down again. When this becomes too easy, practise stepping over a small object and then back over it again.

Last updated: January 10th 2022