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According to Pablo Lopez’s mom Veronica, her son has been positively ebullient since he got his new car. He’ll even wake her, she says, excited to get behind the wheel and take it for a spin.

A kid being excited about his ride isn’t exactly news, until you consider a few key factors. First, Pablo isn’t yet 16. Second, Pablo suffers from Spina Bifida, a birth defect resulting in deformation in the vertebrae and spinal column. As a result, Pablo’s lower trunk and legs are extremely weak.

The car that he’s been cruising around in isn’t of a make or model you’ll find on any showroom floor. Rather, it’s an important tool helping Pablo build his strength while having fun. And it was all made possible by a student-led organization called GoBabyGo@IU.

“GoBabyGo is program that modifies electric children’s vehicles for kiddos with disabilities of all kinds,” says Michael Mohr, a Ph. D. student in the Indiana University Physical Therapy Program at IUPUI and the group’s co-founder. “The idea is to turn them into cost-effective therapeutic vehicles for these kids.”

When a child is referred to GoBabyGo@IU, which is an offshoot of a program started at the University of Delaware, their needs are assessed and goals are set by a professional physical therapist. The GoBabyGo team of physical therapy and engineering students then go about designing a vehicle that will challenge target areas. That could mean a modified seat that encourages standing and leg strength or a dual starter/accelerator system to hone coordination. And, thanks to generous donations and volunteer support, GoBabyGo is able to offer these vehicles free of charge.

Dr. Sara Davis, the primary physical therapist for GoBabyGo@IU, says seeing the excitement and motivation the children gain from their newfound independence has been incredibly rewarding.

“Physical therapy, especially in the pediatric realm is predominately very clinical,” explains Davis. “It gets monotonous for children. By having some kind of an alternative vehicle or some other way to participate in therapy, it gives them a whole new outlook on how to participate in therapy.”

The benefits of physical therapy are not limited merely to structural improvements in a child’s body, says Davis, but have far-reaching effects on the whole of the person. Crawling, for example, necessitates the use of both sides of the body and thus communication between both sides of the brain. And, when a child is mobile, they can explore, and learn more about, their world.

Children also benefit from the increased interaction with their peers that GoBabyGo vehicles grant them. The freedom to play allows them to form bonds and friendship, build trust and cultivate interpersonal skills.

Davis happily notes that Pablo’s new ride has been turning heads and made him the toast of his school when the GoBabyGo team delivered it. “He absolutely had the biggest smile on his face. He wanted to go show every teacher what he was doing, how he was standing, how he was driving the car and all of his friends wanted to see it. They all wanted to go for a ride.”

 

GoBabyGo@IU co-founders Michael Mohr and Andrew Wiseman working on a modified car.

IUPUI physical therapy students and GoBabyGo@IU co-founders Michael Mohr and Andrew Wiseman work on Pablo’s car.

Pablo’s car has proved so popular, in fact, that he’s already had to bring it into the shop for repairs.

“He used the vehicle so much that he ended up breaking it,” says Andrew Wiseman, GoBabyGo@IU’s other co-founder, cheerfully. “We realized that we were going to need some big changes because he was putting a lot of force into it [as] he was getting stronger.”

On the horizon, Mohr, Davis, Wiseman and the rest of the GoBabyGo team are working to grow the organization such that it can fulfill the overwhelming amount of requests they’ve received. They’ve also started a series of GoBabyGo community days that bring together children, their vehicles and their families for a day of recreation and bonding, and are hoping to expand that aspect of the program.

“The social development side is kind of the end goal,” says Wiseman. “Having the kids play and interact with their peers is just amazing.”



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How Manual Therapy Helped Me — Pain News Network


As someone who lives with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, this is the right approach for me. My body’s structure is safely and gently returned to its correct position by fixing the subluxations that occur when my bones shift.  After the adjustment, you are then instructed how to strengthen the muscles through exercise to help to prevent a recurrence of the issue.

When our muscles go into spasm, they pull the bones out of position. The exercises help to calm the spasms by creating strength in the muscle. When you have cranial work done, the manual therapy also puts your muscles into a calmer state.  

As patients, we have a responsibility after the appointment to do what is asked to strengthen the muscles. If you just walk out and fail to do your assigned exercises, you can’t expect your therapist to execute a successful treatment plan.

It reminds me of the time my neck was fused. On day three in the hospital, I received an email of instructions from my surgeon. He clearly stated that he had accomplished his job with the surgery and it was now up to me to get out of bed, start walking, and take on the responsibility of helping myself heal.

Another tip is to take a few minutes before leaving the manual therapy appointment to reactivate and wake those tired muscles. Otherwise, they could slip back out again. This is a simple procedure that your therapist will be able to show you that makes all the difference in the world.

I spent years going to manual therapy and never understood why I kept coming right apart afterwards. Now, I take a few minutes to wake the muscles back up and get them to hold much longer.

If you aren’t having success with traditional physical therapy, you might want to consider manual therapy instead. But remember, you need to do the strengthening exercises to make the treatment successful. Therapists can provide treatment and guidance, but what is often difficult for patients to accept is that we bear the lion’s share of responsibility in any successful treatment plan.



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