Many families in the Frederick area are affected by neuromuscular and developmental conditions such as Cerebral Palsy. In the past, treatment of these conditions has been limited to medications, surgeries, and traditional therapy. The Pediatric Rehabilitation Department at the Mid-Maryland Musculoskeletal Institute (MMI) in Frederick, Maryland offers a unique therapeutic alternative for these children and their families. Known in this country as the Therasuit Method, it is an innovative, intensive therapy program, that helps families and patients treat these neuromuscular conditions and promote greater independence in all aspects of life.
The Therasuit Method is utilized in hospitals and rehabilitation settings around the world to treat patients diagnosed with all forms of cerebral palsy, developmental delays, stroke, traumatic brain injuries, neurological disorders and children with sensory integration problems. MMI is the only pediatric rehabilitation facility in the region that currently offers this unique therapeutic approach. Their fully equipped “Kids Only” Therapy Gym is staffed by a team of specially trained pediatric physical and occupational therapists working in conjunction with MMI’s pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Laura Copaken. “I am always looking for new and innovative ways to improve the quality of life for my patients,” Dr. Copaken said. “The Therasuit Method offers a unique treatment option with measurable results that parents can see.”
Through a system of elastic bands, the suit applies precise and specific pressure to the body, aligning it as close to normal as possible. This causes the postural muscles to work properly and allows patients to learn or relearn normal patterns of movement. The Therasuit is unique in that it facilitates correct posture while the child is doing the work to perform functional movements. This way the child is learning what muscles he/she has to use to experience that movement.
Another component of the Therasuit Method is the Universal Exercise Unit (UEU), also known as the cage. The UEU is a functional strengthening tool, which consists of a pulley system to suspend the involved extremity. This eliminates all gravitational forces allowing the patient to perform independent movements. All exercises completed in the UEU correlate with a functional skill such as going up stairs or standing from a sitting position.
The third component, known as the Spider, also plays an important role in the Therasuit Method. This is completed in the UEU using a system of bungee cords that support the body in a dynamic environment (seen in the photograph at the top of this article). Therapists use this to work on weight shifting, balance, strength, and stabilization.
Dr. Monica Johnson, head of Pediatric Therapy at MMI believes in the success of this innovative and revolutionary therapeutic approach, “My patients who have undergone intensive therapy utilizing the Therasuit Method, consistently achieve better results in less time.” This intensive program requires 3 weeks of one-on-one physical therapy sessions lasting 3 hours per day, 5 days per week. For this reason, summer tends to be the optimum time to utilize this therapeutic option when families have more free time to commit to the intensive process. Upon completion, many patients are able to achieve goals that at one time seemed out of reach.