Guillain Barre Syndrome Treatment

The staff at the Manchester Neurotherapy Centre have experience in Guillain-Barré syndrome treatment.

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a relatively rare condition that affects the peripheral nervous system. These are the nerves that carry signals from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles and take sensory information such as temperature or muscle and joint movement back to the brain. Guillain-Barré usually occurs in previously healthy people. The cause is unclear but in the majority of cases follows a viral or bacterial infection. The body’s immune system changes and starts to destroy the protective covering of the nerves which reduces their ability to carry signals between the brain and muscles. As the hands and feet are furthest away this is where the first symptoms of Guillain-Barré usually occur.

Guillain-Barré treatment involves carefully assessing the individual on an ongoing basis to monitor and promote recovery. Symptoms can range from tingling and weakness in the hands and feet to complete paralysis of all muscles. In the most severe Guillain-Barré cases the breathing, swallowing and facial muscles are also affected leading to the person requiring help from a ventilator to breathe and a feeding tube for eating. The weakness usually occurs quickly over days or a few weeks. Once the disease is stabilised the nerves can begin to recover. Therefore Guillain-Barré syndrome treatment involves specialist neurological physiotherapy input to assess and treat the individual as recovery occurs.

During recovery people may experience pain and altered sensations in the affected areas due to the weak signals travelling through the nerves. Also the weakness that remains in their muscles causes difficulty moving around and walking. As the muscles recover people sometimes use their muscles in altered patterns to fix themselves to make them feel stable. As the muscles strengthen it is important that the muscles are taught the correct function in the best alignment to allow them to return to their normal state. For example, people may create stiffness in their shoulders to hold their body still but this may have an adverse effect on how they can use their arms functionally.

Physiotherapy using the Bobath concept helps to guide recovery to ensure the muscles are being activated in the most appropriate alignment and at the right time and so ensure that the best possible recovery is gained. Guillain-Barré treatment may include balance re-education, muscle strengthening and cardiovascular exercise, gait training and upper limb recovery.