How Spina Bifida Occulta Affects Adult Mobility

For adults with spina bifida occulta, mobility and everyday activities can be inhibited by physical limitations that vary in severity. While some people with spina bifida occulta may experience only minimal physical limitations, others may experience more severe complications and require medical treatments or assistive devices. Learn more about the impact of this condition on walking and daily activities.

What is Spina Bifida Occulta?

Spina bifida occulta is a type of birth defect in which the spine does not form properly, leading to an opening in the backbone. Although the affected area is usually covered by skin and cannot be seen from the outside. In some cases, this opening may lead to permanent nerve damage and physical limitations, including difficulty walking or standing for long periods of time.

How Does It Affect Mobility?

Spina bifida occulta can have a huge impact on mobility and the ability to perform regular daily activities. Due to the opening in the spine, it is common for affected adults to suffer from reduced muscle strength, joint stiffness, and balance problems. These issues may make it difficult or even impossible to walk or stay standing for prolonged periods of time. As a result, they may need additional support such as mobility aids or physical therapy in order to remain mobile.

What Are Common Symptoms and Complications?

Common symptoms of spina bifida occulta include difficulty walking, muscle weakness, joint stiffness and balance problems. Other complications can include chronic back pain, bladder or bowel incontinence, and a higher risk for respiratory infections due to the abnormal location of the spine opening. With appropriate medical treatment and support, however, many adults are able to lead active and fulfilling lives despite their condition.

How Can Physical Therapy Help?

Physical therapy is one of the most effective resources available to those with spina bifida occulta. A physical therapist can help adult patients improve their joint range-of-motion, strength and balance through a combination of stretching, strengthening and endurance exercises. In addition, physical therapists can provide guidance on how to safely manage daily activities like climbing stairs, standing from a seated position, or walking unassisted.

How Can Medication Help With Symptoms of Spina Bifida Occulta?

Some patients with spina bifida occulta may require medication to help manage their symptoms. Pain medications can be prescribed to improve comfort and facilitate greater mobility in the joints, while anti-spasticity drugs can reduce stiffness and help improve movement coordination. Seizure medications may also be prescribed to some individuals with spina bifida occulta if they experience seizures. Medication should always be taken as directed by a doctor or pharmacist.

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