Although HSP, also known as Familial Spastic Paraplegia (FSP), is very rare it presents with common symptoms of spasticity, loss of sensation and weakness, especially in the lower legs. This can lead to difficulties with walking and balancing. At the cellular level there is a breakdown in the transportation channels in the nerves which can be especially evident in the longer nerves of the legs. It can also effect some of the smaller nerves in the brain that affect thinking, hearing, vision and can occasionally cause epilepsy.
The symptoms of HSP can begin anywhere between the ages of 15 to 25. Although this condition is progressive, each person will have a very different journey and have different needs as they progress. Some people will have mild symptoms and be able to walk for a long time, others may be more severely affected and need assistance devices for walking such as orthotics, walkers and wheelchairs.
It is important following diagnosis that you see a physiotherapist that has an understanding of your condition and can help to guide you through any physical changes as they occur. It is known from much of the literature that keeping people fit and active through any neurological condition with the right kind of program will help to maintain you in peak condition, as independent as possible while off-setting many secondary complications that may make HSP more difficult to manage.
Physiotherapists may use a range of techniques to improve your symptoms depending on what problems you are experiencing. Use of a heated hydrotherapy pool can improve cramping and pain as well as keep you moving if activity on land is getting difficult. Neuromuscular orthotic supports can be very useful in keeping you walking, many people with HSP respond well to electrical stimulation and there are several sophisticated devices on the market, such as Walk-aid and Bioness, that can incorporate this into your walking. Strength and coordination training programs are essential to maintain function. Your physiotherapist may also referral you to other team members such as psychology, occupational therapy, acupuncture and massage for a holistic approach to your care.
Remember, you are not alone.
For more information, contact the office on 9906 7777. Our therapy team can help you and guide you through your condition. There is also a support foundation with more information that can be found at www.hspersunite.org.au