Compensation and Recovery

Gilbert Thomson, PT | September 2012

A man in a blue gait trainer practices ambulation aided by two PTs at a facilityShould PTs train for compensation or recovery? Clinicians today are debating whether interventions should focus on teaching whatever is required to accomplish a task (compensation) or promote the neuroplasticity needed to allow the task to be accomplished “normally” (recovery).There is a great dialogue on this topic posted on the Journal of Neurologic PT (JNPT) discussions page which I highly recommend. (Read the comments from the bottom up).

Through providing adaptive equipment for people with disabilities Rifton supports learning functional movement. Many individuals with severe disabilities may never be capable of walking or moving with a “normal” pattern, so for them learning any active movement pattern that accomplishes task goals successfully is important. (Remember that motor control is task-oriented.) But I appreciated from this discussion that both compensation and recovery have a place in rehabilitation. You don’t have to choose one over the other.

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